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Are rising airfreight rates a sign of resurgent global trade?

Airfreight rates ticked back up again in March, up US$0.21 per kilogram, or 6.7 percent over March 2016, as the industry moved out of a seasonal decline in rates that generally follows the holiday surge.

Drewry’s East West Airfreight Price Index registered an increase of 4 percent, to 87.6 points ($2.84/kg) in March 2017, pulling out of a continuous 19.2 point drop between December 2016 and February 2017. In the same period last year, airfreight rates were relatively flat.

Airport tonnage figures surged, month-to-month, indicating that declining airfreight rates were not an indicator of slowing trade.

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With carriers adding aircraft on the back of strong passenger numbers, however, capacity continued to rise. Drewry noted that the pace was slower in 2017, and that utilization was up, along with the rise in load factors.

Drewry’s latest numbers add to a picture of robust global trade that prompted Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL Group, to tell The Economic Times that, as far as logistics went, “we never have lived in a better place than now.”

There are other indicators that are pointing to a global trade resurgence. For instance, as her nears his 100th day in office, President Trump has been walking back on his harshest protectionist stances. Also, the U.K. will go to a re-vote on its own isolationism via a snap general election on 8 June which will either solidify backing for Brexit, or throw its future into doubt.

“We are hopeful that political leadership around the world will realize that globalization and free trade are net positive for global GDP, and that they will refrain from taking actions that would hurt trade,” said John Ackermann, executive vice president of global strategy and development at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.


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