Global trade hit a record $28.5 trillion in 2021, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said Thursday.

The record is an increase of 25%, compared to 2020 and is 13% higher compared to 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic began.

World trade in goods remained strong and trade in services finally returned to pre-pandemic levels, it said. While most growth took hold during the first half of 2021, progress continued in the second half.

In the fourth quarter alone, trade in goods increased almost $200 billion to a record $5.8 trillion last year, while trade in services rose $50 billion to $1.6 trillion — just above pre-pandemic levels.

“Trade in goods increased more strongly in the developing world than in developed countries. Exports of developing countries were about 30% higher than during the same period in 2020, compared with 15% for wealthier nations,” said UNCTAD.

“High fuel prices are behind the strong increase in the value of trade of the energy sector. Trade growth was also above average for metals and chemicals,” it added.

UNCTAD forecasts trade growth to slow during the first quarter of 2022.

“The positive trend for international trade in 2021 was largely the result of increases in commodity prices, subsiding pandemic restrictions and a strong recovery in demand due to economic stimulus packages. As these trends are likely to abate, international trade trends are expected to normalize during 2022,” it said.

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