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Global trade in 2015–2016 showed the lowest growth rate since 2009. But in late 2016 – early 2017, in spite of the alarming trends and general uncertainty, signs of its revival started to show. The key risks are now related to the rise in protectionist trade policies pursued by the leading countries.
Russia is one of the few global powers enjoying a foreign trade surplus. Yet, 2016 was one of the worst years for the country since 2009 in terms of its foreign trade turnover.
At the beginning of the 21st century, megaregional agreements looked like the next step in promoting trade globalisation. Over the past decade, major economies signed an unprecedented number of preferential trade agreements (over 400). Such trade deals as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) offer a great number of measures to lift trade barriers. If implemented, they would have brought about major changes. However, in January 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was quitting the TPP.
The WTO also notes that, over the past few years, there has been a dramatic rise in protectionism that many countries see as a tool to mend the harm done by megaregional trade agreements. Many experts and market players view this trend as a serious threat that may lead to a veritable trade war.
The spring of 2017 was marked by a shift in rhetoric, with world leaders being increasingly hostile to the underlying principles of free trade and globalisation. The resolutions adopted at two forums involving heads of the G20 economies did not contain the traditional condemnation of protectionism and trade barriers.