Global Economy Watch

PwC's Macroeconomics team presents Global Economy Watch, a short publication that looks at the trends and issues that are affecting the global economy and details our latest economic projections for the world's leading economies.

Projecting what the future holds is an important exercise for businesses looking to plan ahead. Below we present a summary of some of the themes we assess will likely prevail in the global economy in 2020.

Trading goods across borders will likely remain tense…: A defining feature of the global economy since at least the 1970’s has been globalisation—the bringing together of economies predominantly via more liberal trade flows. The global volume of merchandise traded slowed down dramatically and even went in reverse in 2019 in contrast to a 21st century average growth rate of about 3.4% per annum*. Also, in December 2019 the World Trade Organization’s (“WTO”) dispute settlement mechanism was effectively disbanded. We expect this trend to continue in 2020 and for trade tensions in the global goods market to persist. This means that we assess globalisation is likely give way to ‘slowbalisation’ i.e. continued integration of the global economy via trade, financial and other flows but albeit at a significantly slower pace. Large businesses with sophisticated supply chains spread across the world should therefore plan for a variety of scenarios, some of which have not been experienced in recent history. 

…but global services trade expected to hit US$7 trillion: One aspect of trade that is often neglected is trade in services, which is now about one third of the size of the global volume of merchandise trade. In contrast to goods, services remain largely unaffected from tariff wars. The latest 2018 data from the International Trade Centre (“ITC”) shows that the global export of services was worth about US$5.8 trillion, or around 3.5% of global GDP. We expect the total value of services exported to hit a record US$7 trillion by 2020. Assuming historic trends continue, the US and UK are likely to remain the first and second largest exporters of services in the world in US Dollar terms. But in yet another reminder of the shift of the centre of economic power from the West to the East we expect China to overtake France in 2020 and become the world’s fourth largest services exporter.

Global economy is expected to grow at a modest pace: Figure 1 shows that growth in merchandise trade flows and the global economy have been intrinsically linked. In our main scenario for 2020, we expect the global economy to expand at a rate of around 3.2% in purchasing power parity (“PPP”) terms which is below the 21st century average of 3.8% per annum. In our main scenario, we expect all of the major economies to grow, buoyed, in part, by accommodative financial conditions. US economic activity is likely to expand by around 2%, in line with its potential rate. Given the historically low unemployment rate, US employers, however, find it increasingly difficult to hire staff. Across the pond, the Eurozone is expected to grow at approximately half that rate (i.e. around 1%). Germany, and other economies that are sensitive to global trade flows, to become more reliant on household consumption as a source of growth instead of net exports and investment. For Germany, however, this could be challenging as households tend to save more than the European average. In the emerging world, we expect the Chinese economy to expand by less than 6%-- but it can still add the equivalent of Saudi Arabia to the world economy in one year. The world’s six other largest emerging economies, including Turkey, should also grow in this scenario, with India leading the way. 



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Barret Kupelian

Senior Economist

Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 1579

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