By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global merchandise import growth slowed to 1.7 percent in 2015 as China's slower growth path and difficulties in commodity exporting countries reduced trade volumes, a World Bank report showed on Wednesday.
The tepid growth in 2015 in import volumes compared with 3 percent growth in 2014, with emerging markets in Asia accounting for most of the slowdown. Had China's imports remained flat, world merchandise import volume growth for 2015 would have been 2.1 percent, the World Bank said.
Import volumes actually declined in the first half of 2015 and then rebounded later in the year, according to the report.
"Lower commodity prices and China’s transition to a new growth path appear to be two mutually reinforcing factors that created weak import demand in emerging economies," the World Bank said in the report.
China faced weaker demand for its exports, particularly from commodity-exporting countries, while its contraction in industrial production reduced its imports.
Because China's industrial sector is import-intensive and more strongly linked to East Asian supply chains, its slowdown magnified the impact on trade in this region.
The rebound for components and commodity suppliers to China will be limited by China's slower demand growth, the World Bank said. But it added that China transitions to a more consumption-based economy, more opportunities will emerge for exporters of final products to China.
(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and W Simon)