COVID‑19 measures introduced in most countries sent G20 merchandise trade plummeting in the second quarter of 2020. Compared with the first quarter of 2020, exports fell by 17.7% and imports by 16.7%, the largest fall since the 2009 financial crisis.
Monthly data for the second quarter reveal that the collapse in trade occurred in April 2020 when most countries had stringent COVID‑19 containment measures in place. Compared to March 2020, G20 exports and imports fell by 18.7% and 16.0% respectively. However, data for May and June point to a partial recovery from the April lows in nearly all G20 economies, as containment measures eased. July data, in those economies where data are available, point to a continued improvement.
China was the only G20 economy to record export growth in the second quarter of 2020 (up 9.1%), following a 9.3% fall in the first quarter. Chinese imports however continued to fall, by 4.9%. Australia registered only single-digit falls in both exports (down by 4.4%) and imports (down by 5.6%). In Japan, exports fell by 15.2% and imports by 4.6%, while in Korea exports dropped by 20.1% and imports by 10.8%.
India and Indonesia experienced particularly sharp falls in exports (down by 30.1% and 15.9% respectively) and imports (down by 47.4% and 18.5% respectively). Exports and imports also fell precipitously in North America: Canada, by 27.7% and 25.5% respectively; the United States by 28.2% and 14.5%; and Mexico by 36.1% and 29.7%.
Similar collapses were seen in Europe. EU 27 exports fell by 21.3% and imports by 19.0%. France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, saw exports fall by 29.3%, 22.5%, 26.5% and 23.6% respectively while imports fell by 20.4%, 15.6%, 23.3% and 25.2% respectively. Russian exports fell by 24.6% and imports fell by 14.9%.