March 2011

Where are Global and U.S. Trade Heading in the Aftermath of the Trade Collapse: Issues and Alternative Scenarios

Joseph W. Gruber, Filippo di Mauro, Bernd Schnatz, and Nico Zorell


Global and U.S. trade declined dramatically in the wake of the global financial crisis in late 2008 and early 2009. The subsequent recovery in trade, while vigorous at first, gradually lost momentum in 2010. Against this backdrop, this paper explores the prospects for global and U.S. trade in the medium term. We develop a unified empirical framework – an error correction model – that exploits the cointegrating relationship between trade and economic activity. The model allows us to juxtapose several scenarios with different assumptions about the strength of GDP growth going forward and the relationship between trade and economic activity. Our analysis suggests that during the crisis both world trade and U.S. exports declined significantly more than would have been expected on the basis of historical relationships with economic activity. Moreover, this gap between actual and equilibrium trade is closing only slowly and could persist for some time to come.

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Keywords: International trade, error correction model, great recession

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Last Update: July 10, 2020