Speakers at the US Export-Import Bank (US Exim) annual conference last week were overall optimistic about the prospects for trade, despite short and long-term shifts in the risk environment.

Trade growth has lagged behind world GDP growth since 2008 – the WTO expects it to stagnate at 2.8% in 2016, a rate unchanged from 2015 – and many are wondering whether a trend that seemed temporary at first has turned permanent. China’s economic slowdown and an increasingly complex political and regulatory landscape were indeed causes for concern at the Washington conference, but speakers were reassuring.

V. Shankar of financial risk consultancy Gateway Partners reminded the audience that south-south trade has grown twice as fast as global trade in the past 10 years, and that emerging markets still show great momentum.

Africa in particular was identified as a growth driver, with Scott Eisner of US Chamber of Commerce pointing to “a big push to harmonise trade regionally” on the continent and adding that Kenya specifically is “on the cusp of greatness or failure”, with the country’s fight against corruption set to determine its future.

Economic commentator Greg Ip said he believes the global economy hit rock bottom in Q1 2016, with positive signs now appearing – a prediction that seems to be confirmed by the WTO’s latest trade forecast, which says global trade growth should rise to 3.6% in 2017.

The evolution of the digital economy was acknowledged as one of the main drivers for that recovery, alongside renewables: in 2015, investment in renewables outpaced oil and gas investment for the first time, according to Rodolfo Echevarría of power project developer Globeleq.

Despite acknowledging the negative effect Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is having on the markets, speakers did not seem concerned about the outcome of the upcoming election: they believed Trump’s chances to be quite slim, and that even if he did win, he would be obliged to break some of his most controversial campaign promises and be reasonable in terms of trade.

For example, Sergio Garcia Gomez of the Mexican Embassy in the US explained that 6 million American jobs today depend on trade with Mexico, making Trump’s project to build a wall between the two countries very unlikely.

Still, US Trade Representative Michael Froman stressed the urgency of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Congress this year, adding that “the rest of the world is not standing still”.

This was Fred Hochberg’s last annual conference as US Exim chairman, and many speakers hailed his work over the past seven years. For his part, he pointed out that US Exim generated US$430mn for the American taxpayer in 2015, and US$2bn since 2009.