Global trade of medical goods grew up to 16% in 2020; WTO

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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Medical Trade
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Medical products trade grew 16.3 percent in 2020, compared to 4.7 percent in 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic was only starting up, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s World Trade Statistical Review 2021.

After the first disruptions, exports of medical products, such as medicines, medical equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE), increased by more than 16 percent, showing how trade has been a lifeline for access to critical goods throughout the pandemic.

The WTO’s annual flagship publication presents recent trends in world trade and seeks to provide statistical insights on the trade impact of COVID-19. It reviewed that medical products’ share in global merchandise trade increased from 5.3 percent in 2019 to 6.6 percent in 2020.

In 2020, medical goods sales increased dramatically, with personal protection products trade increasing the most, by 47.2 percent. Medicine represented 52 percent of world trade in medical goods in 2020.

In 2020, exports of computer services grew by double-digits in many economies across the globe. Most economies had a rapid expansion, in contrast to losses in other service sectors. The move to remote work and the advent of digital platforms boosted the demand for computer services.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trade in goods and services suffered a significant decline in 2020, with merchandise trade falling by 8 percent and trade in commercial services falling by 21 percent year-on-year.

Trade-in manufactured goods represented 71 percent of world merchandise exports in 2020, with a value of $12.1 trillion. World exports of manufactured goods decreased by 5.2 percent in 2020 while total merchandise exports declined by 7.7 percent overall.

After three consecutive negative quarters, world intermediate goods exports increased by 8.5 percent year over year in Q4 2020, indicating a significant supply chain recovery. As food supply chains remained resilient and continued to meet demand, exports of food and beverage intermediate goods climbed by 16.3 percent in Q4 2020.

Exports of transport equipment saw a slight recovery in Q4 of 2020, increasing by 0.5 percent year-on-year. The automotive sector was severely affected by COVID-19, with a decline in sales and supply chain disruption.

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