The resurgence of populism in several countries is spelling trouble for open global trade, a warning sign that is being seen by the shipping industry as a growing threat to business.
“The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) sulphur cap deadline is fast approaching, pressures from the public are pushing for more gender equality within the sector’s workforce, and many stakeholders have been voicing concerns over the implementation of protectionist policies in some of the leading economies of the world, including US and China, the UK and Brazil.
“In May 2019, the ICS joined other organisations to express concern over this increase in protectionist policies. The delegation took to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to present two position papers that outlined their support for free trade and a rules-based multilateral trading system.
“The studies revealed a seven-fold increase in import-restrictive trade measures in 2017 alone, which accounted for some $588.3bn in extra costs to global trade.
“In October 2019 the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) annual Review of Maritime Transport revealed a substantial in dip in maritime trade growth from 4.1% in 2017 to 2.7% in 2018.
“A major victim of this framework was containerised trade growth, which fell from 6% in 2017 to 2.6% in 2018. Growth in port container traffic also saw a slump, as rates increased by 4.7% in 2018, down from 6.7% the previous year.”
Commenting on the figures, UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi, said: “The dip in maritime trade growth is a result of several trends including a weakening multilateral trading system and growing protectionism. It is a warning that national policies can have a negative impact on the maritime trade and development aspirations of all.”
Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco) chief shipping analyst Peter Sand tells GlobalData: “Once supply chains have been disrupted, and trust eroded to the extent that it has been during this trade war, the effect on containerised and dry bulk shipping between the two countries [US and China] could last long beyond any resolution to the trade war (should one of these manifest itself), although Bimco is sceptical that meaningful progress will happen any time soon.”