International trade and balance of payments statistics
International Trade Pulse, OECD - Updated: September 2020
International trade buoyed by resumption of supply chains but services trade growth remains fragile
18 Sept. 2020 - With a few exceptions, most countries saw international trade in goods continue to improve in June, July and August 2020 (for those with data). However, it remained below pre-pandemic levels; with the exception of China, which is now back to 2019 levels. The resumption of supply chains boosted international trade, especially in North America’s automotive industry. However, growth in services trade remains fragile (with levels still around 20% below 2019 averages). Although travel picked up strongly in Europe in June and July, as travel limitations eased, new restrictions imposed in many economies since then are likely to see a retrenchment.
In the Asia-Pacific region, China continues to lead the merchandise trade recovery with monthly levels now above their 2019 average. Chinese exports increased 10.0% in July and 2.8% in August, driven by a surge in demand for home electronics, medical devices (up 45% since the beginning of the year) and textiles, (which include personal protective equipment). Imports increased at a slower rate (0.7% and 4.0% for July and August, respectively), partly reflecting low energy prices. Exports to the United States reached a record high (over 20% up on August 2019), and imports from the United States also increased (by 1.8% on the same month last year), although still far from the commitments of the Phase One trade deal1.
Following a 12.2% increase in June, Australia’s exports contracted by 4.0% in July, partly reflecting weak mineral prices. However, imports picked-up by 8.5% in July, driven by non-industrial transport equipment.
Merchandise exports in Korea jumped 11.1% in July, driven by high demand for computers and home electronics. Imports increased by 6.2% in July but August saw a slowdown in both exports (flat) and imports (minus 1.6%). Japanese exports grew by 6.4% in July and 6.7% in August, supported by high demand from China (up around 5% in August compared to 2019). Imports, however, remain subdued (minus 1.8% in July and slightly up, 0.8%, in August) with levels back to those last recorded in early 2016.
In the Americas, merchandise trade for July picked up in all economies shown here but remains significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels.
In Brazil, exports grew by 7.6% in July and more moderately, by 0.2%, in August, while imports increased by 1.8% and 10.6% respectively. In July, trade continued to rebound strongly from the crisis lows in the United States and Canada with exports (up 12.0% in the United States and 13.6% in Canada) and imports (up 12.4% and 13.0%) picking up strongly as supply chains, particularly automotive, resumed.
Europe also saw a broad based recovery in trade, albeit also remaining below pre-COVID levels.
In Germany, merchandise exports increased by 6.9% and imports by 4.3% in July. On a cumulative basis, year-on-year exports to China are virtually flat (minus 0.1% compared to January-July 2019) while exports to the United States are down almost 20%. France also saw robust merchandise trade growth in July, with exports up 12.1%, (driven by aircraft manufacturing products) and imports up 7.5%. This robust growth pattern was also seen in the United Kingdom, with exports in July 2020 up 8.2% and imports up 9.2%.
Russian exports increased by 1.9% in July following 9.0% growth in June but imports contracted by 1.5% in July (compared to 1.1% growth in June).
Trade in services
Source: OECD Statistics and Data Directorate based on national sources. Growth rates refer to current US dollars. With the exception of China, figures are seasonally adjusted.
Korea and China saw services exports increase markedly in July (by 4.7% and 7.3%, respectively), driven by a pickup in transport and business services. Imports picked up by 2.1% in Korea and by 0.5% in China. Following a marked spike in May, Japanese services trade contracted in June and July. Exports, despite a moderate increase in transport, contracted by 9.1% in July driven by slowdowns in intellectual property (IP) and business services. Imports also fell by around 4% in both June and July, despite a rebound in transport (up 18.1% in July).
The deterioration in the COVID-19 situation in Australia weighed down on its trade in services, with exports and imports falling by 10.4% and 1.6%, respectively, in July, following positive growth in May and June. Exports of passenger transport and travel, in particular, which were starting to recover from the April lows, contracted by 12.7% and 18.9% respectively.
Services trade in North America remained sluggish in June and July. Exports from the United States increased marginally, by 0.7%, in July, with growth in transport, business and IP services offset by plummeting exports of travel (down 8.9%). Imports fared better (up 1.4% and 3.5% in June and July, respectively), with all categories showing growth (with travel up 31% in July compared to June). Similarly, growth in Canadian services trade slowed in July, with exports and imports increasing by 1.0% and 0.5%, respectively (compared to 3.7% and 4.5% in June).
Brazilian exports of services declined 17.2% in July following the 14.1% increase in June. However, imports picked up in July (by 8.3%), with purchases of transport and business services rebounding after a weak June.
In Europe, all major economies saw their services trade expand in June and July, although still 10-15% below their 2019 levels. French exports of services increased by 5.7% in June and by 7.6% in July, with travel up 47.5% as travel restrictions on the continent eased. Imports also increased (by 10.0% in June and 8.8% in July). Similarly, strong travel figures for July (up 77.1% for exports and 80.3% for imports, although still at half their 2019 levels), drove Germany’s services trade up, with overall exports and imports growing by 4.1% and 14.8%, respectively. In the United Kingdom, exports and imports increased by 23.2% and 32.3%, respectively, in June, and continued to expand in July (up by 4.8% and 13.0%). Russian exports of services, having fallen for five consecutive months, increased by 7.4% in July thanks to higher sales of transport and business services. Imports however contracted by 4.8% following a temporary pick-up in June of 10%.
Table 1: Merchandise trade for selected economies Previous period growth rates in %
Table 2: Trade in services for selected economies Previous period growth rates in %
Source: OECD Statistics and Data Directorate based on national sources. Growth rates refer to current US dollars, seasonally adjusted figures.
1. The Economic and Trade Agreement between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China: Phase One entered into force on 14 February 2020.
Next publication date: 20 October 2020
This note attempts to provide a timely picture on international trade by bringing together the latest data on those countries where data are available. For any question, contact the OECD Statistics and Data Directorate at SDD.Tradestats@oecd.org.