Trade restrictions among G20 still high, says WTO report

11 Nov 2016


The number of trade-restrictive measures applied by G20 economies remains high, despite a slight decline in the mid-May to mid-October 2016 period compared to the previous six-month period, says the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This is of particular concern given the continuing global economic uncertainty and the WTO's recent downward revision of its trade forecasts, it adds.

The implementation of new trade-restrictive measures by G20 economies decreased to an average of 17 a month in the mid-May to mid-October period compared to the average of 21 measures in the previous six months.

While this represents a reduction in the monthly figure compared to the peak in the previous period, it is actually a return to the trend level for new trade-restrictive measures since 2009, says a new report by World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The Group of 20 major economies implemented a total of 85 new trade-restrictive measures during the period mid-May to mid-October 2016, ie, an average of 17 new measures per month against 21 per month imposed in the mid-October 2015 to mid-May 2016 period, according to WTO's sixteenth monitoring report on G20 trade measures, issued on Thursday.

While this slight decline represents a return to recent trend levels after a peak in the first half of 2016, the number of new measures remains high and the rollback of existing trade-restrictive measures continues to be slow, it said.

In addition, WTO said, the rate of trade facilitating measures applied each month declined against the previous period, and remains considerably below the 2009-2015 trend.

The steady accumulation of trade-restrictive measures since the financial crisis has gradually increased the share of global trade affected by such restrictions. As of the most recent reporting period the share of world imports covered by import-restrictive measures implemented since October 2008 and still in place is 5 per cent and the share of G20 imports covered is 6.5 per cent.

Commenting on the report, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said, ''The continued introduction of trade-restrictive measures is a real and persistent concern.  Tangible evidence of G20 progress in eliminating existing measures remains elusive.

''It is clear that the financial crisis has had a long tail and that the world economy remains in a precarious state. Many people are struggling with unemployment or low paying jobs and are concerned about broader changes in the economy. These concerns demand a concerted response from governments and the international community. One step will be for G20 members to deliver on their commitment to refrain from imposing new trade-restrictive measures and roll back existing ones.''

The initiation of trade remedy investigations remained the most frequently applied measure by far, representing 72 per cent of trade-restrictive measures and above the average share observed since 2009. The G20 economies initiated far more trade remedy actions (61) than were terminated (36) during the latest reporting period. Metal products (in particular steel), chemicals, and plastics and rubber account for the largest shares of anti-dumping and countervailing initiations during the review period.

On the positive side, the new trade-facilitating measures include those implemented in the context of the newly expanded Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and which have very broad trade coverage. The number of these measures does not provide a complete picture of the extent of these measures nor their impact, but WTO secretariat estimates indicate that the ITA expansion measures which were implemented by certain members during the review period cover around $375 billion in annual global trade.

The G20 economies include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Republic of Korea, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union.

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