USITC Report Highlights COVID-19’s Impact on International Trade

Franklin Wearing a Protective Mask (US Economy/Trade and COVID concept)

Trade Update • SEPTEMBER 9, 2021

The “unique global trade environment” created by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is a focus of The Year in Trade 2020, released this week by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

This year’s publication includes highlights of global macroeconomic and trade trends during the pandemic and reports on its impact on key sectors.

The 72nd in a series of reports submitted annually to the U.S. Congress by the Commission, the Year in Trade provides a comprehensive profile of activities related to U.S. trade policies, agreements, and trade laws.

Global Trade Trends

In 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic caused a worldwide economic recession. Gross domestic product worldwide contracted by an estimated 3.3% in 2020. Though less than the 4.7% drop experienced on average by advanced economies, the real GDP of the United States declined by 3.5% last year. China was one of the few economies that expanded in 2020, growing by 2.3%, though still well below its 2019 growth rate of 5.8%.

At the same time, annual global manufacturing output dropped by an estimated 4.1%, with the biggest decline occurring during the second quarter, followed by a strong recovery in the third and fourth quarters. In the U.S. and Canada, manufacturing output declined by about 8% in 2020, the sharpest contraction across all regions.

Global trade in both goods and services declined significantly in 2020, dropping by 7.6% and 19%, respectively. With travel restrictions and social distancing in place, global demand for certain goods (e.g., petroleum products and transportation equipment) and services (e.g., transport and travel services) fell sharply, while global demand for other goods, including COVID-19 related medical goods (e.g., masks, surgical gowns), surged.

AD/CVD Trade Enforcement in 2020

Antidumping duty investigations: The Commission instituted 85 new antidumping investigations and made 89 preliminary determinations and 29 final determinations in 2020. The U.S. Department of Commerce issued 21 antidumping duty orders on 10 products from 11 countries in 2020 as a result.

Countervailing duty investigations: The Commission instituted 26 new CVD investigations and made 30 preliminary determinations and 19 final determinations during 2020. Commerce issued 13 countervailing duty orders on eight products from six countries in 2020 as a result.

AD/CVD Reviews: The Commission instituted 64 reviews of existing AD/CVD orders or suspended investigations, as required by law, either five years after initial publication or five years after publication of a subsequent determination to continue them. The Commission completed 75 reviews, resulting in the continuation of 71 AD/CVD orders.

Key Legal & Regulatory Developments

In addition to the foregoing, The Year in Trade 2020 also covers:

  • U.S. international trade laws and actions under these laws, including U.S. safeguard, intellectual property rights infringement, national security, and section 301 cases active in 2020;
  • the operation of U.S. trade preference programs, including the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Nepal Trade Preferences Act, and the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, including initiatives for Haiti;
  • World Trade Organization dispute settlement decisions and other significant activities in the WTO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreements;
  • negotiations on agreements with Japan, Kenya, the European Union, and the United Kingdom; the implementation of the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement; and developments regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement and other U.S. FTAs already in effect; and
  • bilateral trade issues with selected major U.S. trading partners—the European Union, China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and India.
  • The report also provides an overview of U.S. trade in goods and services during 2020. Statistical tables highlight U.S. bilateral trade with major trading partners and trade under U.S. trade preference programs and FTAs.

Additional Information

A set of interactive, web-based presentations of underlying data has also been made available:

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