Worldwide, 82% of exporters anticipate economic recovery in 2024. Chinese exporters are the most optimistic, but their US and European peers also foresee an end to last year's trade recession. Almost 40% expect export growth of more than +5% this year. This is according to the annual global Trade Survey by credit insurer Allianz Trade (see annex).

The Trade Survey is published for the third year in a row. In total, more than 3,000 companies were approached in China, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, the UK and the US. Johan Geeroms, Director Risk Underwriting Benelux at Allianz Trade: "The optimism is striking. Last year, exporters were also positive but came out disappointed with zero growth. You would think that this dampened optimism a bit but the opposite is true. Last year, 70% of exporters expected sales growth, this year 82%."

Allianz Trade's own expectations are slightly more conservative. "We too see global recovery. We think global trade will pick up by +2.8% in value terms. That is still substantially lower than the long-term average of 5%. Especially the disruption of global shipping and increasing protectionism makes us cautious. Of course, entrepreneurs also see these dangers, but there seems to be some habituation."

On the situation in Belgium and neighbor the Netherlands, Geeroms is also only moderately enthusiastic. We expect to see export growth by the end of the year, but it will not be fast. In the first months, growth was disappointing. Both in the Netherlands and Belgium, we saw disappointing growth and export figures." Geeroms is referring to reports last week from CBS and the European Commission.

The credit insurer's survey zooms in on the threats exporters see. The top five look as follows:

  1. Uncertainties due to politics and protectionism (73%)
  2. Supply chain disruption (31%)
  3. Shortage of raw materials and semi-finished products (28%)
  4. Financing problems (20%) and
  5. Danger of non-payment (17%)

Concerns about high energy prices have dropped significantly since 2023.

According to Geeroms, exporters are increasingly struggling with non-payment. "Only 11% report being paid within 30 days. 70% indicate it takes 30 to 70 days. At 7% more than 90 days. Globally, companies are delaying paying invoices. This is mainly because working capital is under pressure, partly due to higher financing costs. Worsening payment behavior makes entrepreneurs anxious. Because sometimes delay means procrastination and non-payment can be a big blow to a company."

The focus on sustainability already seems to be weakening further. Almost two in three companies say they will reduce CO2 emissions by only a paltry 1 to 5% by 2024. Not nearly enough to reach zero emissions by 2050.

Many countries talk about boycotting China, but when it comes to export activities, this is still limited. Geeroms: "It is happening half-heartedly. You see two movements. International companies exchanging China as a production location for alternatives in Asia-Pacific. These are then mainly German, French and especially American companies. But our survey also shows that 33% of companies actually say they are expanding operations in China." China's exports are being hit by higher import tariffs imposed by countries, with the US leading the way. For instance, the US tariff on Chinese electric cars is going up from 25% to 100%. Tariffs on Chinese solar panels and medical equipment are also rising sharply.
chinese-productielocaties

Allianz Trade's own expectations are slightly more conservative. "We too see global recovery. We think global trade will pick up by +2.8% in value terms. That is still substantially lower than the long-term average of 5%. Especially the disruption of global shipping and increasing protectionism makes us cautious. Of course, entrepreneurs also see these dangers, but there seems to be some habituation."

On the situation in Belgium and neighbor the Netherlands, Geeroms is also only moderately enthusiastic. We expect to see export growth by the end of the year, but it will not be fast. In the first months, growth was disappointing. Both in the Netherlands and Belgium, we saw disappointing growth and export figures." Geeroms is referring to reports last week from CBS and the European Commission.

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