June 27, 2022

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Global trade falls 2.8% as Russia’s war in Ukraine hits container traffic

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The value of global trade fell 2.8 per cent between February and March as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a sharp drop in container ship traffic from the two countries, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

The data from the German research body are the first to indicate how much the conflict in Ukraine and extensive sanctions imposed on Russia by the west have hit global trade since the invasion started on February 24.

The biggest impact was on trade with Russia, as the value of imports into the country fell 9.7 per cent in March from the previous month, while exports fell 5 per cent, according to the Kiel Institute. Its indicator tracks shipping data from 500 ports in real time, seasonally adjusting the value of exports and imports, to offer a measure of trading activity.

“Real distortions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by the west, as well as a high level of uncertainty among companies with relations to Russia, are noticeably setting back March trade,” said Vincent Stamer, head of Kiel Trade Indicator.

Shipping container traffic halved in the past month at St Petersburg, Vladivostok and Novorossiysk, Russia’s three busiest container ports, because of the sanctions imposed on the country and the withdrawal of many western brands, the institute said. Ukraine’s main port at Odesa on the Black Sea has been “practically cut off from international maritime trade”, it added.

The war in Ukraine had a chilling effect on EU trade, reducing exports from the bloc by 5.6 per cent in March and imports by 3.4 per cent. The impact on the US was milder, with its exports falling 3.4 per cent and imports dipping 0.6 per cent.

By contrast, the impact on China was negligible, as its exports fell 0.9 per cent last month, while imports grew 0.9 per cent. Beijing has been more supportive of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine than the west and has not backed international sanctions on Moscow.

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