Photo: EPA
London - The global economy is in a broad-based upturn with core inflation at last on the rise, according to a majority of economists polled, but the worldwide gains remain under threat from trade protectionism.

Those findings come as the semi-annual gathering of finance officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Group of 20 major economies kicks off in Washington, where the case against protectionist trade policies is expected to be a major theme.

Recent optimism on the global economy found in the poll is based on manufacturing and trade gains in some major economies and is in line with the IMF’s upgraded projections in its latest quarterly World Economic Outlook.

“For the first time in five years, all the major economies seem to be growing in sync,” noted Ajay Rajadhyaksha, head of macro research at Barclays.

“The global trade recession is over, fears of deflation have faded even as inflation pressures seem muted and the worst fears on global trade - such as the US imposing tariffs on major trading partners - have not come to pass.”

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The polls of more than 500 economists across Asia, Europe and the Americas, however, suggested that concern remains about trade nationalism.

But on the economy as a whole, it revealed upgrades, or no change to growth forecasts compared with previous months, as well as a slightly stronger inflation outlook across most countries.

Global growth is forecast to rise to 3.4 percent this year, followed by 3.5 percent next - back above the pace it was expanding at before the financial crisis almost a decade ago.

While the latest consensus was slightly lower than the IMF’s projection of 3.5 percent global growth in 2017, the range of forecasts in the poll pointed to a slightly more optimistic outlook this time around, with higher highs.

On track

Global trade is on track to expand 2.4percent this year after growing at the slowest pace since the financial crisis, just 1.3 percent, in 2016, according to the World Trade Organisation.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said last week there was “deep uncertainty” about economic and policy developments, particularly in the US, and clarity was needed on US President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policies.

Similar concerns were voiced by an overwhelming majority of economists who answered an additional question in the poll, suggesting broad agreement among economists on the need to resist protectionism.

While US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said such warnings were “rubbish,” because the US was less protectionist than its trading partners, Trump has made reducing trade deficits a key focus of his economic agenda.