THE UN Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) first quarter trade update for 2024 is cautiously predicting an increase in international growth.

International trade was up by around 1% in the quarter compared to the previous quarter with UNCTAD predicting it will rise to 2% for the first half of 2024 adding approximately US$250 billion goods trade and about US$100 billion to services trade in the first half of 2024 in comparison to the second half of 2023.

The report warns though that geopolitical issues and industrial policies will continue to reshape global trade patterns.

Highlights from the report showed that trade growth in developing countries and South-South trade outpaced that in developed countries.

Increased exports from China, up 9%; India, up 7%; and the United States, up 3%; drove global trade growth while Europe had no growth and Africa dropped 5%.

UNCTAD Q1 2019 - Q1 2024 trade chart

Green energy and AI-related products experienced strong increases in what was a varied performance across all sectors.

High performance servers trade value jumped by 25% compared to the first quarter of 2023 and other computers and storage units jumped by 8%. Electric vehicle trade values also increased by around 25%.

“Overall, moderating global inflation and improving economic growth forecasts suggest a reversal of the downward macroeconomic trends that have characterized most of 2023,” the report said.

“Additionally, rising demand for products related to energy transition and artificial intelligence should contribute to trade growth through 2024.

“Furthermore, the possibility of interest rate cuts in the United States later in the year and the consequently weaker United States dollar could give global trade a further boost.

“However, the global trade outlook for 2024 remains subject to downside risks. Persistent geopolitical tensions, rising shipping costs, and emerging industrial policies could significantly impact global trade.”