Global trade declined by 0.4% in May, with analysts forecasting continued stagnation for the coming years.

Despite analysts at the CPB Netherlands Bureau predicting a 0.6% rise in global trade, it returned a worse performance than April, when it declined by 0.3%. The latest World Trade Monitor says that “the decline was widespread”, singling out only import volumes in Japan and emerging Asia as areas of positivity.

The Dutch statisticians release the report on a monthly basis, but discourage against dwelling too much on each individual month, encouraging focus on “momentum”, defined as “the change in the three months average up to the report month relative to the average of the preceding three months”.

This measure makes for bleaker reading still. Trade momentum was down 0.8% in May and sank in terms of the both export and import of most major regions, again emerging Asia excepted.

Global trade growth comfortably outstripped that of GDP throughout the second half of the 20th century. After a huge decline in 2008 due to the financial crisis, the years to 2014 were marked by steady, if slow, recovery.

However, global trade growth now perennially lags behind even the most sluggish GDP returns, with the slowdown in China, low commodity prices and poor demand in western markets all contributing to the downturn.

Analysts have warned that the impact of Brexit is yet to be factored into the global trade data and that it is unlikely that further trade liberalisation measures will be adopted in the current climate.

“The latest available data show that world trade, which has been pretty stagnant for the past 18months or so, remains depressed. And with the UK’s Brexit vote having further reduced the chances of significant trade liberalisation, trade growth is likely to remain subdued in the coming years,” says Nikita Shah, global economist at Capital Economics.

She points out that the UK’s current account deficit is now close to the largest it has ever been in peacetime, but that the sharp drop in the pound should redress that balance to some extent.

Of more concern is the impact that Brexit and the political instability elsewhere may have on a number of floundering free trade agreements which are under negotiation. The EU is set to face difficulty in concluding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US without the UK, which was one of the most forceful proponents of a comprehensive agreement.

The likelihood of the US Congress ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) also now seems remote in the near future. Both candidates for the US presidency are nominally opposed to the agreement, although it’s expected that a Hillary Clinton administration would be more likely to progress with the TPP than one headed by Donald Trump.

All things considered, we can expect more sluggish trade performance for the foreseeable future.