GENEVA, Oct 27 (AFP): Global exports of goods are expected to grow by 6.5 percent this year, down from 9.0-percent growth in 2004, the World Trade Organisation said on Thursday.
In its statistics on world trade flows, the WTO pointed to a fall in economic output caused in part by the sharp rise in oil prices.
"While growth in trade will remain satisfactory in 2005 the decelerating trend is cause for some concern," said WTO chief Pascal Lamy.
"To set us on the right course we need to create more opportunities for trade, particularly in developing countries, and we need to adjust global trade rules to better meet the needs of entrepreneurs in the 21st century."
He pressed the 148 governments in the WTO, which are facing deadlock in their Doha Round negotiations on expanding free trade, to do more to ensure success at a looming summit in Hong Kong.
The December 13-18 conference is meant to cap the Doha Round, launched in 2001, by approving the outlines of a multilateral accord cutting tariffs, subsidies and other hindrances to commerce.
In its annual overview, the WTO said that trade had picked up in the second quarter of this year in the 30 rich countries grouped in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
But trade among Asian countries, and US imports, both slowed in the first six months of 2005, the WTO said.
"The steep rise in real oil prices, to their highest level in more than two decades, has negatively affected consumer and business confidence in the oil importing countries," it said.
"The full impact of the price increases is still to be felt in consumer and business expenditure."
The WTO study also looked in more detail at world trade in 2004.
"The emergence of China as a major import and export market for goods and services continued unabated in 2004," said the WTO.
The share of China in the exports and imports of many countries doubled between 2000 and 2004. By 2004, China had become the world's third-biggest merchandise trader.
The sharp rise in prices and traded volumes of many primary commodities was boost for some regions and product groups in international trade flows, said the WTO.
Oil-producing countries in the the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Africa, all saw export growth in the face of rising demand from China, India and the United States.
The WTO also cited increases in the price of iron and steel, ores, nonferrous metals, which recorded export growth of almost one third in 2004.
Product groups with the weakest growth in 2004 included farm produce, textiles and clothing.
Merchandise exports of the world's poorest countries are estimated to have risen by one third to 62 billion dollars in 2004, fuelled by higher commodity prices, the WTO said.