A United Nations report on Wednesday forecast a 7 percent to 9 percent year-on-year drop in the value of global trade in 2020, despite signs of a weak rebound in the third quarter led by a recovery in China.
In the latest quarterly report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Geneva-based trade body estimates world trade to be about 5 percent less in the third quarter than the same period in 2019, an improvement from the 19 percent year-on-year decline recorded in the second quarter but still insufficient to pull trade out of the red, reports Xinhua.
Global trade was bouncing back marginally in the third quarter, but remains negative except for China, it said.
Preliminary forecasts put year-on-year growth for the fourth quarter at 3 percent less. However, the report warned of uncertainties as how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve and affect economic activity in the coming months.
The report also highlighted China's notable trade recovery, saying that the country's exports rebounded strongly in the third quarter after falling in the early months, with year-on-year growth rate at almost 10 percent.
"In the third quarter, Chinese trade statistics have progressively got better. In value, China exports for 2020 are now almost at the same level of the first nine months of 2019," UNCTAD Economist Alessandro Nicita told Xinhua in an interview.
"If this trends continues, it could very well be that China could register overall export growth for 2020," he said.
"Ultimately, for China to contribute to the global economy, it would be important not only to act as a manufacturing hub, but also to contribute more to global demand," Nicita.
UNCTAD also warned that no region was spared from the fall in international trade in the second quarter of 2020, saying the sharpest decline was for the West and South Asia regions, where imports dropped by 35 percent and exports by 41 percent.
In its latest World Economic Outlook earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a 2020 global contraction of 4.4 percent, an improvement over a 5.2 percent fall predicted in June, when pandemic-related business closures reached their peak.
The global economy will return to growth of 5.2 percent in 2021, according to the IMF.
Chinese train maker CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd. on Wednesday rolled out a new type of high-speed train which can run on different rail systems.
The train, with a standard speed of 400 km per hour, has been developed to cope with different rail systems on international routes, making international rail travel more convenient, reports Xinhua.
The company said the train can operate in temperatures between minus 50 degrees Celsius and 50 degrees Celsius, and can also operate under different traction power supply systems and railway transportation standards of different countries.
Based on the prototype and technology, the company is ready to take orders for customized high-speed trains and train products according to the technical standards and operational requirements of various regions of the world.
There are currently four main railway track standards around the world. When ordinary trains run between countries with different gauges, they need to replace their train bogies, which takes time and effort.
As the new CRRC train is equipped with gauge-changing bogies, it can change its rail mode during cross-border travel, greatly improving the efficiency of travel across rail systems.
Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt on Wednesday announced that he had recovered from cancer, barely a week after he confirmed that he was suffering from the disease.
Armenia and Azerbaijan reported more fighting on Tuesday over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, where clashes have continued for over three weeks despite two attempts at establishing a cease-fire.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said the hostilities carried on overnight and accused Armenian forces of shelling the Terter and the Agdam regions of Azerbaijan in the morning. Two civilians were killed and one wounded in the Terter region, Azerbaijani authorities said.
Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanian reported “intensive fierce battles” on Tuesday morning in the southern areas of the conflict zone, and alleged that Azerbaijani forces were using aviation and artillery in the northern sector, reports AP.
The two countries announced a cease-fire on Saturday in a bid to halt the fighting that has killed hundreds since Sept. 27, when the latest outbreak of hostilities started, marking the worst escalation of a decades-old conflict. The agreement — just like a cease-fire deal brokered by Russia a week earlier — was almost immediately challenged by mutual claims of violations and the fighting resumed unabated.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. By then, Armenian forces not only held Nagorno-Karabakh itself but also captured substantial areas outside the territory’s borders.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said the nation’s military reclaimed control over multiple towns and villages in the Jabrayil and Fizuli regions, two of the seven Azerbaijani regions outside Nagorno-Karabakh that were seized by Armenian forces during the war in the early 1990s.
Aliyev also said Azerbaijani forces took control of the town of Zangilan and several nearby villages just south of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as a number of villages in the region.
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, 773 of their troops have been killed since Sept. 27, along with over 30 civilians. Azerbaijan hasn’t disclosed its military losses, but says 61 civilians have died so far and 291 have been wounded.
The deadly flighting prompted calls for the cessation of hostilities from around the globe and raised concerns of a wider conflict involving Turkey, which has publicly supported Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a security pact with Armenia.
On Oct. 9, Moscow hosted the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. After more than 10 hours of talks, they announced a cease-fire deal, which was violated minutes after it took force.
The new truce announced on Saturday followed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s calls with his counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan, in which he strongly urged them to abide by the Moscow deal. Despite the agreement, both sides have reported new attacks.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers are scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Friday. Last week Pompeo said Washington was making diplomatic efforts to help achieve a sustainable settlement to the conflict and called on both countries to “implement their agreed-upon commitments to a cease-fire.”
Russia, the U.S. and France co-chair the so-called Minsk Group, set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the 1990s to mediate the conflict.
Russia said Tuesday it’s ready to accept a US proposal to freeze the number of nuclear warheads and extend the two nations’ last arms control pact for one year and Washington responded that it’s prepared to make a quick deal.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus welcomed the Russian offer and said that the US is ready to quickly clinch an agreement.
“We appreciate the Russian Federation’s willingness to make progress on the issue of nuclear arms control,” Ortagus said in a statement. “The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same.”
The statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry marked a shift in Moscow’s position after Russia and the U.S. rejected each other’s offers regarding the New START treaty that expires in February.
The ministry noted that it’s ready for a deal if the US does the same and doesn’t put forward any additional demands, the statement read.
The New START treaty was signed in 2010 by then U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The pact limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, the New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.
Russia has offered its extension without any conditions, while President Donald Trump’s administration initially pushed for a new arms control agreement that would also include China.
It recently modified its stance and proposed a one-year extension of the 2010 treaty, but said this must be coupled with the imposition of a broader cap on U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads. The cap would cover warheads attached to battlefield weapons, which are limited by the New START treaty that only restricts strategic nuclear arsenals.
Russia has agreed to a one-year extension but resisted a broader cap on warheads until Tuesday.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued that Russia can’t agree to the U.S. proposal to limit tactical nuclear weapons alongside nuclear warheads that arm strategic missiles and bombers until Washington agrees to withdraw its nuclear warheads from Europe.
Lavrov also noted that Moscow wouldn’t accept the U.S. demand to have intrusive verification measures like those that existed in the 1990s when inspectors were positioned at missile factories. Moscow appears to still resist the deeper inspections, which aren’t envisaged by the New START.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said that “a one year politically binding warhead freeze could be a useful confidence-building measure if combined with a one year New START extension, with the option of an additional extension adding up to a total of five years.”
“It would be a step in the right direction that would avert, for now, an all-out arms race,” Kimball said, adding that it would give Washington and Moscow more time for further talks on a new deal to cut their nuclear arsenals.
In the closing days of his reelection bid, Trump has looked for ways to boost his foreign policy record, and although he says he favors nuclear arms control, he has called New START flawed and unfavorable to the U.S. Last year, he withdrew the U.S. from the INF treaty with Russia, and he waited until this year to begin engaging with the Russians on the future of the New START deal.
Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, tweeted that President Vladimir Putin was offering a deal that would fall far short of the Trump administration’s original demands, including its insistence that China becomes part of a new treaty.
“For Trump, accepting Russian position would constitute astounding walk-back: No “fix” of New START, no improved verification, no inclusion of “outside” weapons, no China,” Kristensen said.
Democrat Joe Biden, who was vice president when New START was negotiated during the Obama administration and ratified by the Senate, has said he wouldn’t hesitate to agree to Putin’s original proposal for a five-year extension of New START. That would be followed by negotiation of a follow-on deal.