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Trade: Into uncharted waters

First published:, 24/10/2013

Author: Shawn Donnan

This is an interesting insight into what’s going on in world trade and the global economy, published by the Financial Times, featuring some generous attributions to me and a paper I wrote for UBS, called Globalisation: big but not too big to fail. 

 A 30-year trend of trade growing at twice the speed of the global economy has ended

The Tangerine Island, a bulk carrier sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, is moored in the Gulf of Panama after passing through the canal a few hours earlier. Off southern England, the 199-metre Turandot, a vehicle carrier, is setting a course for New York after leaving Southampton. In the Strait of Malacca off Sumatra, the Liberian-flagged Amazon River is steaming along at 16 knots.

This snapshot of the thousands of freighters crossing the oceans each day – as tracked this week on the £2.49 “Marine Traffic” app – suggests that the world’s seaborne trade is in rude health. But this picture obscures a statistical mystery; one that some see as a warning about the future of globalisation.

Global trade this year is expected, for a second year in a row, to grow at close to or even less than global economic output. This is an anomaly….“more:”