Two apparently contradictory reports have emerged on the amount of trade finance business written in 2017.

While one report says the world's largest banks reported less trade finance and letter of credit (L/C) business, another survey suggests world trade increased in the year.

Good year

The CPB World Trade Monitor suggests 2017 turned out to be a remarkably good year for world trade with 4.5 per cent year-on-year growth.

The report published by the Netherlands' Bureau for Economic Policy reckons world trade is still growing, albeit at a slower rate. It says the volume of world trade increased by 2.7 per cent in November and in December increased by just 0.3 per cent.

Bad year

But analytics company Coalition says trade finance revenues amongst ten of the world's largest banks that it analyses fell by three per cent in 2017 following a nine per cent decline in 2016.

That marked fourth successive year of decline with some bank units, including the Asia Pacific operations Bank of America Merrill Lynch, reporting that a continuing shift from L/C to open account transactions was one reason behind declining trade revenues.

The banks analysed by Coalition are Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and Wells Fargo.

This article represents the views of the author and not necessarily those of the ICC or Coastline Solutions.