The Global Economy Was Improving. Then the Fighting Resumed. – The New York Times

But these trends are fragile. Airfreight has declined nearly 4 percent since its peak in 2017. Outside China, manufacturing in Asia has been slowing for much of the last two years. A trade war between the United States and China — two countries that collectively account for roughly 40 percent of world economic output — would almost certainly aggravate the situation.

Exports to China from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam have plunged by about 14 percent over the past year, or about $6.3 billion, according to analysis from Oxford Economics.

Those same countries have lifted their exports to the United States by a similar percentage. But the United States is a less important trading partner, and the increase amounts to less than $2 billion.

In Europe, the trade war presents another unwanted source of concern at a time of tenuous progress.

Concerns that Britain’s unruly departure from the European Union would damage trade across the continent had abated — at least in the immediate term — as London and Brussels agreed to extend their fractious divorce proceedings until the end of October.

Germany, the Continent’s largest economy, had been moderating fears of weakness, with data showing an increase in factory orders and exports. Germany’s exports to China were up by more than 5 percent in March compared with a year earlier.

But much of what Germany sends China amounts to the piece parts of China’s industrial apparatus — car parts, engines, electrical machinery and other gear folded into factory operations. If Chinese factory operations slow in the face of American tariffs, China’s appetite for German goods will most likely wane.

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