Covid Crisis Drives Historic Drop in Global Trade

A container ship sits moored in Yokohama, Japan. Manufacturers in the country reported a recent drop in export orders.

Photo: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg News

Global trade flows collapsed in the spring, marking the largest fall in two decades, as coronavirus lockdowns disrupted air and sea transport and dealt a blow to the demand for many consumer and investment goods.

In more recent weeks, signs have emerged of a rebound in the movement of goods across national borders. But the enormous economic and social disruptions caused by the pandemic are expected to reshape global trade in the longer term.

Global trade had weakened before the crisis, hobbled by trade tensions and fresh tariffs. Coming on top of those disruptions, the pandemic has raised fresh questions about the resilience of supply chains that stretch across the globe and drive a third of world trade.