As China reported its lowest annual GDP reading since 1990, analysts have been speculating as to the impact this might have on world trade.

The economy grew by 7.4% in 2014, missing Beijing’s growth target of 7.5% as the government attempts to steer the country away from the investment and credit-fuelled growth spurt that saw it return to double-digit growth almost uninterrupted for three decades.

The slowdown has, thus far, been well-managed and the Chinese government won’t be losing too much sleep over narrow target misses. “Rebalance usually means lower growth. It’s obvious that consumption couldn’t grow at such a fast pace as investment,” Samuel Li, an economist at Bocom Group, a Chinese investment banking firm, tells GTR.

And some of the most telling global repercussions have been setting in for some time.

Already, the relative slowdown has had a big impact on the commodity markets. As China tried to shift away from the resource-intensive construction and low-end manufacturing industries to more value-added sectors, demand for commodities around the world slumped.

“Lower Chinese GDP growth has already hurt commodities exporters, ranging from Australia to Venezuela. The question going forward is will China try to boost exports to bolster its own GDP? If so, China’s trade balances will rise and the rest of the world’s GDP will suffer,” Derek Scissors, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told this publication.

China’s trade data has actually been stronger than expected of late, boosted by the falling price of oil, which has allowed China to keep importing large volumes of energy at a big discount, and a relative pickup in the US.

Furthermore, China imported a record amount of iron ore in December, but most Sino-watchers assure us that this is an exception to a rule that will continue to be borne out over the coming months. However, analysts believe that the weakening eurozone and the ongoing travails in Russia could serve to counterbalance the trade benefit felt from the US.

“I don’t see the rest of the world economy, for example the EU, doing well enough to help China substantially,” Scissors adds.

In recent times, Beijing has been more reluctant to turn to the extravagant stimulus packages it favoured in years and decades gone by. Indeed, the People Bank of China (PBOC – China’s central bank) has been tightening interest rates, both consumer and interbank, in an effort to squeeze excess liquidity from the economy, which was partly fuelling an unsustainable property bubble.

But it’s these enormous infrastructure spending sprees which have buoyed global trade in the past, generating unprecedented demand for minerals and energy. It’s likely then, that the government will open its chequebook once more in a bid to make the economic landing as soft as possible – even if analysts warn that this is a short-term measure, and one which prevents the necessary economic restructuring to from taking place.

“If China tries further stimulus, it won’t work beyond a few months. There is already too much money in the system, a consequence of the panicked 2009 stimulus. That tool is already used up, whether Beijing and the financial markets recognise it or not. What is needed is powerful, wrenching reform,” said one economist, who wished not to be named, via email.

For those involved in the trade of commodities, machinery and energy, however, anything that generates demand – albeit short-term – is likely to be welcomed.