International trade statistics: trends in first quarter 2024

and travel boosts growth in services trade

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28 May 2024 – After declining in 2023, G20 merchandise exports rebounded in Q1 2024, as measured in current US dollars. Compared to Q4 2023, exports increased by 1.9%, boosted by strong export growth in China, while imports contracted by 0.2%, partly reflecting decreasing energy prices. According to preliminary estimates, G20 services trade continued to expand in Q1 2024.[1] G20 exports and imports are estimated to have grown by 2.2% and 3.5% in Q1 2024, respectively, partly reflecting rising international travel (Figure 1 and 2).

Merchandise exports rose by 1.4% in Q1 2024 in the United States, driven by higher sales of consumer goods and agricultural products, while exports fell by 0.6% in Canada. Capital goods, and in particular computers and semiconductors, were the main contributors to import growth in the United States and Canada. Exports increased by 0.9% in the European Union, mainly due to stronger sales of chemical products in France and Germany, while imports declined, albeit less strongly than the previous quarter, due to reduced energy purchases. In the United Kingdom, both exports and imports contracted due to lower trade in machinery and transport equipment. Merchandise exports grew strongly in East Asia, with steel and machinery fuelling export growth in China (up 6.6%) and semiconductors and computers driving the Korean exports. Conversely, weak automobile sales weighed on export growth in Japan (down 2.1%). Lower sales of primary commodities impacted exports from Australia (down 2.1%), Indonesia (down 0.9%), and Brazil (down 3.5%).

Services exports grew by 1.6% in Q1 2024 in the United States, due to higher receipts from travel and financial services, while imports rose sharply (up 4.1%), driven by travel, transport, and financial services. In Canada, services exports stagnated while imports rose by 1.3%. Driven by lower receipts from financial and other business services, German exports contracted slightly, while imports rose by 1.4%, mainly reflecting higher travel expenditure. In France, increased revenues from transport and travel raised exports, with strong travel expenditures also boosting imports. The United Kingdom recorded solid export growth due to higher sales of travel and transport services, while imports rose by 1.7% on the back of strong spending in transport and other business services. In Japan, services exports plummeted (down 8.3%), reflecting marked declines in revenues from intellectual property products and other business services, while imports rose by 1.5%. In India, services exports and imports rose by 2.4% and 6.6%, respectively. In China, trade in services surged, with soaring travel expenditure boosting imports (up 6.3%) and higher revenues across all services categories increasing exports (up 9.9%).

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