Trade finance, a basic lubricant for the global economy, is becoming much more expensive and tougher to get, accelerating an already harrowing downturn.
Banks are reluctant to allocate scarce capital to trade finance, which funds cross-border buying and selling, and are very wary about being caught short by defaults by other banks which write letters of credit or by the importers and exporters themselves.
While not the prime cause of a slowdown in global trade, which is being buffeted by declining consumption and tighter finance to households and businesses, tough conditions for the obscure but crucial corner of finance that funds goods and commodities between dispatch and delivery is sand in the wheels.
Stunningly bad trade figures from China underlined the problem. China had been expected to show double digit growth in trade last month as compared to November 2007, but the data showed exports falling 2.2 percent from a year ago and imports down 17.9 percent.