Escalation of trade war could torpedo global trade

Atradius news

Escalation of trade war could torpedo global trade to the tune of USD 1.5 trillion and spur a spike in insolvencies

2019 is expected to mark the first year of global insolvency growth since the global financial crisis ended

Amsterdam, 02 July 2019 – A global escalation of the trade war could cost nearly USD 1.5 trillion in lost trade by end 2020. That is the equivalent of all German exports grinding to a halt for one year. Trade policy uncertainty is forecast to contribute to an increase in the number of corporate insolvencies in advanced markets, after nearly a decade of sizeable annual improvements. In the case of a severe intensification of the trade war, trade growth could grind to a halt this year, driving growth in corporate insolvencies much higher than the 2% rise currently expected. The aggregate growth in insolvencies is almost exclusively driven by Western Europe (+2%).

The application of increasingly stringent protectionist measures, particularly in trade between the United States and China, is forecast to have negative effects on other economies as well, in particular the main trade partners of the eastern giant, such as Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea, where exports to China have slumped by 10% to 20%. On the flipside, some trade from these economies is being diverted from China to the US. Vietnam, for example, has seen a 40% surge in exports to the US this year, benefitting from their competitive labour costs and export sectors, especially textiles. In Japan, on the other hand, the opportunities for trade diversion are less drastic as relative costs are more expensive and their exporting sector is more devoted to higher value-added goods. As such, insolvencies are forecast to increase 2%.

“As trade policies remain uncertain and trade relationships tense, insolvencies are on the rise. We expect trade growth to slow to only 2% this year, before recovering slightly in 2020, and business failures to increase by 2% this year” comments Andreas Tesch, Chief Market Officer of Atradius. “Against this backdrop, the most prominent downside risk is that businesses become increasingly vulnerable, especially in corporate debt. For this reason, it is of paramount importance for suppliers selling on credit to perform an accurate assessment of their buyers’ creditworthiness availing themselves of the most up to date credit information. This to avoid serious cash flow issues that might set back their business. In this regard, commercial credit insurance and its embedded information services remain the most effective tools for insuring the livelihood of suppliers, should buyers fail to pay”.