The overall picture continues to be uncertain, both in the European Union (EU) and the United States, with imports remaining below the 2008 pre-crisis levels while exports to Asia remain high, increasing the dependency on Asia- and export-led growth.
Total US external trade by sea has fallen back to the 2009 level, 13% below that of 2008; trade in the EU has stagnated at the June 2008 level (-1% compared to June 2008).
Sea freight data indicates weak import demand both in the EU and the US, as imports by tonnage remain below pre-crisis levels; in the EU imports fell -10%, while US imports declined further at -25%.
Recent data on inland freight transport by road and rail also shows weak domestic activity, again remaining stagnant in Q4-2012 in both regions. Road volumes fell further in the EU to 15% below the 2008 peak, the lowest figure reported since 2008.
Although Asia, and more specifically China, remains the driver of growth, the recent signs of a slowing economy are seen by China’s imports by sea from North Atlantic economies, which have declined since mid-2012.