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The second quarter of 2021 saw international merchandise trade for the G20, as measured in seasonally adjusted current US dollars, reach a new high following the record levels already posted in Q1 2021. G20 merchandise exports and imports increased by 4.1% and 6.4% in Q2 2021

compared to the previous quarter, showing a slowdown compared with the rates posted in Q1 2021 (8.6% and 8.5% for exports and imports, respectively). Like in the previous quarter, rising commodity prices explain a large part of the increase, as congestion in international shipping and supply issues around semiconductors placed further pressure on the price of traded goods. 

The G20 economies more reliant on exports of primary commodities saw strong export growth in Q2 2021, a combination of increasing prices, limited global supply (e.g. copper) and strong demand (particularly from China, Japan and Korea). Australia’s exports increased 10.0% in Q2 2021, on the back of rising sales of cereals, metals and coal. Brazilian exports rose by 29.4%, driven by iron ores and soybeans. Russian exports grew 30.7% in Q2 2021, mostly benefiting from increasing energy prices.

Merchandise trade values in North America reached an all-time high in Q2 2021. Canada’s exports were up 4.7%, driven by energy and forestry products. Imports rose by 3.6%, with metals and pharmaceutical products playing a large part. Mexico also recorded solid growth in the quarter, exports up 3.3% and imports up 5.1%. The United States recorded growth of 6.8% for exports in Q2 2021, led by aircraft, pharmaceuticals and semiconductors and with strong demand from Canada and Mexico. Imports in the quarter rose 4.2%, with robust imports of mobile phones and despite sluggish purchases of vehicles.

European G20 economies saw international trade increase notably in aircraft, agriculture products and pharmaceuticals, fuelled in particular by demand from China and the United States. In Q2 2021 the European Union recorded export growth of 2.8% and import growth of 5.7% (France 1.3% and 2.9%, Germany 1.3% and 6.3%, and Italy 4.0% and 6.4%). In the United Kingdom, exports rose 12.3% and imports 11.3% in Q2 2021, a strong rebound following the Q1 slowdown.

The rise in commodity prices was a factor in imports increasing faster than exports in the East Asian G20 economies in Q2 2021. Exports from Japan and Korea grew by 2.7% and 2.2%, while imports rose by 7.4% and 11.8%, respectively, with trade in vehicles and parts driving the increase in particular for Korea. Following the staggering (18.6%) growth in the previous quarter, Chinese exports declined by 2.5% in Q2. Imports, instead, continued to expand (up 10.9%), with purchases of agricultural products, metals and semiconductors remaining strong.