The causes of the Great Recession are rarely debated. Illustration: iStock
Illustration: iStock

Escalating trade tensions are eroding global growth prospects with the world economy set for its slowest expansion since the global financial crisis, the OECD warned on Thursday.

In an update to its economic forecasts from May, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development cut its global growth forecast for this year to 2.9% from 3.2%.

The prognosis for 2020 was lowered to 3.0% from 3.4%.

“These would be the weakest annual growth rates since the financial crisis, with downside risks continuing to mount,” said the OECD.

The International Monetary Fund already lowered its own global forecasts in July in face of the long-running– and bruising – trade war between the United States and China, the world’s number one and two economies, respectively.

Growth prospects for almost all of the Group of 20 countries were revised down by the OECD, particularly those exposed to declining global trade and investment.

“Escalating trade policy tensions are taking an increasing toll on confidence and investment, adding to policy uncertainty, weighing on risk sentiment in financial markets, and endangering future growth prospects,” the OECD wrote.

The US economy was now expected to expand by 2.4% this year, a downward revision of 0.4%points from the May forecast, and significantly slower than the 2.9% recorded last year.

The 2020 forecast was cut by 0.3% points to 2.0%.

Chinese growth was expected to slow to 6.1% in 2019, a downward revision of 0.1 point, while next year’s forecast was cut by 0.3 points to 5.7%.

The OECD said “collective effort is urgent to halt the build-up of trade-distorting tariffs and subsidies and to restore a transparent and predictable rules-based system that encourages businesses to invest.”

It revised down its 2019 forecast for the 19-country eurozone to 1.1% growth this year and 1.0% in 2020, whereas previously it had been expecting activity in the single currency area to pick up speed.

Britain’s growth outlook was also lowered as uncertainty over Brexit persists, with the OECD now pencilling in expansion of 1.0% this year and 0.9% in 2020, compared with 1.4% last year.

“A no-deal exit would be costly in the near-term, potentially pushing the United Kingdom into recession in 2020 and reducing growth in Europe considerably,” the OECD warned.


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