Business chart with glowing arrows and world map

Global trade flows dropped in the fourth quarter, according to new data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD).

The Paris-based group reported that merchandise trade for the G20 countries contracted in Q4, as both imports and exports dropped.

The decline in trade reflected “sluggish global demand and decreasing energy prices,” the OECD said, noting that the results marked “a gloomy end to a challenging year.”

The retreat in energy prices “weighed especially heavily” on trade activity in North America, the OECD said, “with exports contracting by 6.7% in Canada, 5.4% in the United States, and 3.1% in Mexico” in the fourth quarter.

The weakness was also evident in China, which was still under strict Covid-19 restrictions at the time.

As a result, China’s exports were down by 7.1% in Q4, and imports were down 2.5%, the OECD said.

“Weak demand from China placed further strain on trade in East Asia,” it said.

Services trade in the G20 also declined in the fourth quarter, the group reported. It said that services exports were down by an estimated 0.8% in Q4, and services imports were down 1.5%.

“With shipping costs falling back to pre-pandemic levels, the value of trade in transport services sharply contracted across the G20, while travel continued to recover from the Covid-19 lows,” the OECD said.

In Canada, exports and imports of services fell by 0.7% and 4.0%, respectively, it noted.