Trade between emerging markets accounted for more than 50% of global trade volumes for the first time in 2012.

Speaking at the International Finance Corporation’s trade and supply chain seminar in Washington DC, the manager of the World Bank’s development prospects group Andrew Burns told delegates and GTR that sluggish growth among high income countries was being masked by strong showings elsewhere in the globe.

Burns said the “threshold” was as significant as China overtaking of the US as the world’s biggest trading nation, which also happened in 2012.

The eurozone crisis continues to hamstring trade among developed countries and while the emerging regions are coming off a lower base, the figures indicate a seismic shift in trading power.

Global trade grew by just 3.5% last year, whereas trade between every single developing region rose by more than 50%, with south-south growing most strongly. China contributes a huge amount to the statistics, but even when it is excluded from the data, the average inter-regional growth is between 15 and 20%.

Equally, while the figures were embellished by the trade of significantly highly-priced commodities, Burns pointed to the large growth in manufacturing in developing sectors last year as evidence that the growth is authentic.

Burns predicted that 2013 will be a better year all round: Q1 has already yielded growth in trade of almost 20% among developing countries. High income countries such as European and North American states are expected to report much more modest figures, but Burns suggested they are recovering slightly. He expects them to be growing by between 3 and 4% by 2015.

Trade financiers, warned Burns, need to do more to capitalise on the inter-regional boom. Trade finance volumes have been increasing incrementally, but are still depressed and quite a way off 2010’s levels.

Trade finance growth in developing regions is reliant on the adoption of trade facilitation programmes. Rather than maintaining growth through demand stimulus, said Burns, emerging economies should use trade as the driver, with trade finance and facilitation tools being a key part of this.