China, US, Germany top world’s merchandise exports in 2021 

Ngozi Okonju-Iweala


A 2022 World Trade Statistical Review released by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has shown that China, the United States and Germany were the top three merchandise exporters in 2021, representing 15, eight and seven percent of world exports respectively.

This is as trade in goods has recovered faster than services trade due to strong consumer demand for products, especially in advanced economies, sustained by governments’ fiscal stimulus measures and in 2021, trade in goods rose by 27 per cent year-on-year, and by 17 per cent in comparison with 2019. 

In a statement released by WTO for the 2022 World Trade Statistical Review, the Director-General of the organisation, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the data, which covered trade in 2021 and the first half of 2022, shed light on recent trends in world trade.

She said the data provides insights into the repercussions of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine on the global economy, commodity prices, inflation, goods shortages, and supply chain congestion. 

Okonjo-Iweala noted that after rebounding strongly, if unevenly, from the slump caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, global trade in merchandise and services faces renewed headwinds, amid a slowing global economy, persistent inflation, monetary tightening, and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. 

She stressed that the war, which started in February 2022, has weighed heavily on world trade, with sharp rises in commodity prices and disruptions in access to essential goods such as grain, gas, and fertilisers. 

However, she acknowledged that prices remain high by historical standards in many countries, particularly in local currency terms.

“Global merchandise trade grew by 26 percent in value terms in 2021 – with estimated average price increases of 15 per cent accounting for the difference with the 9.8 per cent increase in global merchandise trade volumes,” she stated.

According to the report, “China, the United States and Germany were the top three merchandise exporters in 2021, representing 15 per cent (China), 8 per cent (United States) and 7 per cent (Germany) of world exports. World exports of iron and steel grew the most among manufactured goods in 2021. Since 2017, they have increased by US$ 170 billion.

“Trade in manufactured goods represented 68 per cent of world merchandise exports in 2021, with a value of US$ 14.8 trillion. World trade in goods and services amounted to US$ 27.3 trillion in 2021, a 24 per cent increase compared with 2020.Trade in transport services rose by 35 per cent in 2021, fuelled by a surge in freight shipping rates. The total value exceeds pre-pandemic levels.” 

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