International trade and balance of payments statistics

International trade statistics: trends in fourth quarter 2020


Final quarter of 2020 shows continued recovery in G20 international merchandise trade


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23 Feb 2021 - G20 international merchandise trade continued to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020 (exports up 7.2% and imports up 6.8%), following the sharp falls seen in the first half of 2020, as lockdown measures affected trade globally. Although growth in the fourth quarter of 2020 was strong, it shows a reduction compared to the unprecedented expansion observed in the third quarter, when exports and imports increased by 20.6% and 16.8%, respectively.

With the exception of Argentina, hampered by strikes in their wheat export supply chain, all G20 economies experienced international trade growth in the fourth quarter of 2020. In general, quarterly levels of international merchandise trade were somewhat above those in 2019. Limited provisional data available for January 2021 show international trade growth continuing.

A strong driver of 2020 merchandise trade growth in the G20 was China, which already experienced a rebound in the second quarter of 2020 and has seen solid international trade growth continue in the last two quarters of 2020 (exports up 7.0% and 6.1%; and imports up 7.6% and 3.1%, for the third and fourth quarter, respectively). Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia (exports up 11.6% and imports up 7.9%) and Japan (9.7% and 6.5%) saw strong trade growth in the fourth quarter of 2020, while growth in Indonesia (6.2% and 1.7%) and Korea (5.0% and 4.5%) was more moderate.

The EU27 as a whole (exports up 7.7% and imports up 6.4%), as well as France (9.4% and 3.1%), Germany (8.0% and 7.3%) and Italy (8.6% and 7.8%) all recorded strong growth in the fourth quarter of 2020, reinforcing the rebound observed in the third quarter. The United Kingdom recorded double-digit growth in both exports (10.0%) and imports (16.0%) in the fourth quarter of 2020. The strong growth number for imports could be linked to anticipation of the withdrawal from the EU single market and may also have supported the strong export numbers for the G20 EU economies (i.e. France, Germany and Italy).

G20 economies in the Americas also continued to gain ground in the fourth quarter of 2020. Brazil exports were up 2.8%, while imports increased by 25.8% (largely as the result of the purchase of oil extraction equipment). Canada recorded steady international trade growth (exports up 4.8% and imports up 4.7%), while the United States saw stronger growth numbers (8.6% and 6.1%).

G20 total international merchandise trade
Seasonally adjusted, in current prices and current US dollars billion

 G20 international merchandise trade, Based on figures in current prices (billion US dollars), seasonally adjusted

Visit the interactive OECD Data Portal to explore these data further 

Source: OECD (2020), Monthly International Merchandise Trade (IMTS) (Database)‌‌ 




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