The first month of 2018 saw the joint-fastest global trade growth since the financial crisis ended in 2011.

World trade volume increased 0.9% in January, matching a previous recent high from mid-2017. Germany and China contributed the highest export volume to the growth, according to the CPB World Trade Monitor, a Dutch government service considered the benchmark on trade data.

The figures were announced on the same day that US President Donald Trump unleashed tariffs on China that could target US$60bn of imports from the country, and hours after his previously announced tariffs on metals imports came into effect.

It shows that despite the months-long anticipation of a trade war, global commerce is resilient. Container and air freight volumes rose in January and February too, while industrial production also increased.

The data comes on the back of a strong year for global trade, in which its growth beat expectations, out-growing global GDP for the first time since 2013.

“What’s more, business surveys point to world trade growth holding up well in the near term. The new export orders component of the Markit global manufacturing PMI is consistent with world trade volumes continuing to grow by 5-6% year-on-year in the coming months,” says Simon MacAdam, global economist at Capital Economics.

The effects of the tariffs have yet to filter through, of course, and all eyes will be on mid-year statistics to see the material impact the bilateral row has on international trade. However, many traders and financiers are sanguine about the prospects: few expect it to hit trade flows in key sectors.

Arjen van Dijkhuizen, a trade economist at ABN Amro, says that it is by no means certain that the latest US tariffs regime will even come to pass.

“The US Trade Representative (USTR) has been instructed to propose a list of products with any intended tariff increases within 15 days. Then, there is an undefined ‘period of notice and comment’ and ‘consultation with appropriate agencies and committees’ before tariffs are actually implemented.

“USTR has been instructed to update the president on any progress made within 60 days. This provides ample wiggle room for China to offer concessions to placate the US and potentially to avoid an imposition of tariffs altogether, or at least a mitigated version,” he says, concluding that “experience suggests the bark can be worse than the bite”.

However, a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit highlighted a global trade collapse stemming from a trade war as the top risk to the world economy.

While analysts are currently forecasting strong global trade growth this year and next, buoyed by strong emerging market export growth and robust Chinese economic growth, the threat of the Trump regime looms large.

“There’s a risk that the administration of the US President, Donald Trump, translates its protectionist rhetoric into more concrete action that severely damages global trade channels,” the report’s authors wrote.

After a couple of poor years, meanwhile, many trade finance bankers are pinning their hopes on a bumper return for volumes in 2018. Prices remain deflated, but the US Federal Reserve’s rate-hiking process and the US tax reform bill are likely to lead to a repatriation of funds from regions such as Asia. Such a move would drain liquidity from a market which has, for years, been drowning in it.