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The Boston Globe

Business

Global trade to be weaker than expected

GENEVA — Global trade will be weaker than expected this year as European economies struggle with their debt crisis, and will recover only slightly in 2014, the World Trade Organization said Wednesday.

The global trade body forecast in its annual report that trade would grow 3.3 percent during 2013, significantly less than the 4.5 percent it had earlier predicted.

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That would be only a meager improvement from the 2 percent rise in 2012, a terrible year for global trade. Exports were ravaged then by the financial turmoil in the 17-country eurozone, economic aftershocks from Japan’s earthquake and nuclear crisis, and the impact of political unrest in the Middle East.

The WTO had earlier forecast a 3.7 percent rise in trade in 2012, based on what WTO economist Coleman Nee described as assumptions that the European Union was ‘‘getting its act together’’ financially. In fact, the debt crisis continued and remains a source of uncertainty for the world’s largest economic region.

Trade growth remains well below the 5.3 percent rate it averaged over the last 20 years, the WTO said. The figures represent the total volume of merchandise exported across borders, accounting for changes in prices and exchange rates.

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