International merchandise trade continued to expand in September, although at a slower pace than that recorded in August with levels remaining about 10% below 2019 averages. Services trade also continued to grow in most economies but, with the exception of China and Japan, which saw strong growth in September, it remained subdued. Merchandise trade data for October point to continued fragility in international trade.


Following strong merchandise trade figures in September (exports and imports increased by 12.8% and 7.0%, respectively), Korean exports and imports contracted by 8.2% and 3.6% in October. Foreign demand for home appliances, electronics and bio-health products (especially Covid-19 diagnostic kits) remained high, but a slowdown in mobile phones and ships drove overall exports down. Korean services imports rebounded strongly in September (up by 10.8%, following the 5.2% contraction in August), driven by computer and business services and travel (up 3.0%, following the 11.6% increase in August). Exports increased only marginally in September (0.8%), as robust growth in business services (13.7%) was offset by decreasing sales in other sectors (construction, of which Korea is a world leader, recorded a 15.9% fall).

China‘s merchandise exports picked up in October (by 5.4%, following the 3.2% contraction in September). Exports of textiles (including masks and other personal protective equipment), integrated circuits and computers and parts continued to expand significantly. However, merchandise imports declined by 1.0% in October, following the 6.6% increase in September. On the services front, Chinese exports rebounded (up 12.0% in September), following the 6.7% contraction in August. Imports also expanded significantly (by 14.2%). Apart from travel, trade in all services sectors in September exceeded 2019 levels, with exports of transport services almost 30% above last year’s monthly average.

Fuelled by Chinese demand, merchandise exports from Japan (up 4.9% in September) continued to expand, with imports also increasing (up 2.9%). Services trade also picked up strongly in September, with exports and imports up by 16.6% and 11.1%, respectively. While all sectors expanded (including travel, up by 12.5% and 10.1% for exports and imports respectively), computer and services related to intellectual property recorded particularly high growth.

Growth in merchandise exports accelerated in Australia (up 5.3% in September, from 1.9% in August), held up by metal ores and minerals. Imports, however, contracted by 8.2%, with falls recorded across most products. Exports of services grew by 2.8% in September, with travel starting to recover (up 4.9%) following sharp falls in July and August. Services imports declined by 1.1%.


The United States recorded 3.2% growth in merchandise exports in September. Soaring shipments of soybeans (up 63% in September and mostly shipped to China) and robust sales of telecommunication equipment, computers and parts drove the increase in exports. Merchandise imports on the other hand were virtually flat, as increased purchases of cars and car parts were offset by declines in home electronics, mobile phones and industrial materials. Services trade remained at about 75% of its 2019 levels. Imports grew by 1.8% in September, a slower rate than July and August 2020, while exports accelerated slightly (to 1.3% from 0.4%), with travel exports (up 3.4%) growing for the first time in seven months.

In September, Canada’s merchandise exports grew by 1.9%, led by record shipments (and rising prices) of lumber, and increasing sales of aircraft and other transport equipment. Imports were also up 1.6%, mainly on higher purchases of energy products. Services exports instead contracted (minus 2.5%), with all sectors posting negative growth and travel plunging by 15.5%. Similar to the United States, imports increased by 1.3%, a slower rate than July and August.

Following a flat showing in September, Brazil’s merchandise exports picked up slightly in October (2.3%). Imports also continued to grow (by 1.1% in September and 3.9% in October). Brazilian services exports and imports increased by 0.6% and 1.7%, respectively, in September.


Merchandise exports in France grew by 3.7% in September, while imports remained flat. Exports of transport equipment (up 20%), and aeronautical equipment in particular (up by about 60%), performed strongly. Exports of services increased marginally (0.3%), as the strong contraction (by 18.8%) in travel was offset by growth in other services (up 4.3%). Imports also picked up (up 3.1%) but unlike the case for exports, travel (up 18.3%) drove growth.

Like France, Germany’s merchandise exports increased in September (2.6%), while imports were flat (minus 0.1%). Shipments to China exceeded 2019 levels in September, while exports to EU and the United States remained about 5 to 6% below last year’s levels. Services trade contracted for the first time in four months, with exports and imports declining by 0.7% and 3%, respectively.

Much like previous months, merchandise trade in the United Kingdom for September has seen variable movement – exports fell by 5.1% while imports increased by 8.0%, in large part driven by trade with China and the United States. Services export growth slowed in September to 0.3% (following 6.0% increase in August) and imports contracted by 0.6% (following 5.9% growth in August).

Merchandise exports in Russia grew strongly in September (up 20.9%) with imports up by a more modest 2.9%. However, monthly export levels are still only around those last recorded in the early part of 2017. Having increased in August (by 7.7%), exports of services decreased by 2.9% in September, reflecting weak sales of transport and business services. Imports, however, expanded by 34.5% following a sharp contraction in August (minus 17.5%).

Source: Hellenic Shipping