Following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 on trade volumes, 2021 reaffirmed the resilience of global trade with a strong and better than expected return to growth, with total trade flows reaching nearly 20% above pre-pandemic levels. This recovery in global trade, as well as its consistent growth over the last three decades, has been clearly supported by trade finance products that offer liquidity and risk mitigation solutions for importers and exporters, allowing them to transact with confidence across borders. Despite the current macroeconomic uncertainty, BCG expects global goods trade to continue to grow at a further 5.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next 10 years on a nominal basis, and 2.3% in real terms.
The ICC Trade Register continues to be the global authoritative source of default rates in trade, supply chain and export finance using its data set that represents nearly a quarter of all global trade finance transactions. For 2021, the report confirms decreases in default rates across all asset classes versus the prior year:
- Import Letters of Credit: Obligor-weighted default rate decreased from 0.64% in 2020 to 0.29% in 2021 (-0.35 ppts.)
- Export Letters of Credit: Obligor-weighted default rate decreased from 0.06% in 2020 to 0.05% in 2021 (-0.01 ppts.)
- Loans for Import/Export: Obligor-weighted default rate decreased from 0.92% in 2020 to 0.36% in 2021 (-0.56 ppts.)
- Performance Guarantees: Obligor-weighted default rate decreased from 0.49% in 2020 to 0.26% in 2021 (-0.23 ppts.)
- Supply Chain Finance: Obligor-weighted default rate decreased from 0.93% in 2020 to 0.06% in 2021 (-0.87 ppts.)
- Export Finance: Obligor-weighted default rate decreased from 1.01% for 2007-20 to 0.97% for 2007-21 (-0.04 ppts.)
While a fall in default rates versus 2020 would be expected, it is even more reassuring that in many cases 2021 default rates are below pre-pandemic averages; this is likely driven by rapid economic recovery following the deployment of effective COVID-19 vaccinations combined with continued government stimuli across many markets.
ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “These findings reinforce the findings of previous iterations of the Trade Register: trade finance products continue to be resilient and represent banks with low levels of credit risk, even during times of macroeconomic uncertainty. It is important for banks, investors, and regulators to recognise this and show continued support for this valuable asset class“.
As part of ICC’s ongoing ambition to improve the value the Trade Register brings to its member banks and the trade finance community, in this year’s iteration the Trade Register introduces an improved data set for the calculation of loss given default (LGD), allowing for improved estimates of these values and, for the first time, LGD and expected loss estimates for supply chain finance.
In addition, ICC continues to operate its revised commercial model introduced last year. This is intended to improve the value proposition for member banks and over time help to grow the dataset to maximise the Trade Register’s role in validating the risk characteristics of global trade.