Oil exports were among the few bright spots for an otherwise darkening picture for global trade expansion in 2005, according to a new report released on Thursday by the World Trade Organization.

Among the six major trade sectors measured by the Geneva-based WTO, expansion in mining and fuel exports increased from 33 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in 2005. Overall, merchandise export expansion was down 9 percent in the same time period. Meanwhile, expansion of commercial services - which include transportation and travel - was down 10 percent in 2005.

“2005 saw a deceleration of world trade caused by a lower economic activity,” said WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy who oversaw the failed Doha-round global trade talks earlier this year.

“At a time of uncertainty, a strong, rules-based multilateral trading system is the best insurance policy for the world economy,” added Lamy who said political action was necessary to bring the round to a successful conclusion.

World exports of fuels rose by 41 per cent to $1.4 trillion in 2005 and its share in world merchandise exports reached 13.8 per cent, its highest level in almost two decades, noted the report.

Among merchandise exports, agricultural products and manufactured goods grew 9 percent slower in 2005 compared to the previous year. Within commercial services exports, transportation grew 12 percent slower, while travel expanded 8 percent slower.

In the group of major traders exporting manufactured goods, China increased its merchandise exports the most as the country exported up to 28 per cent more last year. China also experienced faster export growth than import growth in 2005.