G20 international merchandise trade rebounded sharply in the third quarter of 2020 (exports up 21.6 % and imports up 18.1 %) after its precipitous fall in the second quarter of 2020 as lockdown measures were brought in across the globe. However, international trade remains around 5 % below its pre-pandemic level in Q4 2019 and close to 10 % below the most recent high seen in Q3 2018. Furthermore, provisional data for October, in those countries where data are available, suggest that renewed lockdown measures introduced in many economies may already be beginning to weigh down on international trade.
Exports and imports rebounded sharply in North America: in Canada, by 31.1 % and 32.3 % respectively; in the United States by 23.6 % and 18.5 %; and in Mexico by 50.2 % and 18.5 %. Notwithstanding these positive developments, trade remained below pre-pandemic levels in this region.
Europe saw a similar rebound in the third quarter of 2020. In the EU, exports rose by 27.4 % and imports by 22.4%, with exports in France, Germany and Italy up by 35.9 %, 28.2 % and 40.8 % respectively, and imports by 30.7 %, 17.8 % and 29.8 %. In the United Kingdom exports increased by 23.8 % and imports by 31.0 %. In Russia, for Q3 2020, despite a sharp rise of more than 40 % in crude oil prices, trade increased more moderately, with exports up 10.6 % and imports up 7.0 %.
In Brazil and Japan, imports declined (by 8.9 % and 5.3 % respectively) for the third consecutive quarter, and although exports saw moderate growth (by 1.6 % and 11.6 %), they remain 7 % and 6 % below pre pandemic levels.
Among G20 economies, only China has seen trade recover (exports up 9.6 % and imports up 13.7 % in Q3 2020) to above pre-pandemic levels with trade in PPE equipment, in particular, helping to push China’s exports up to a record high in the third quarter of 2020.