Trade flows hit by new restrictions implemented by WTO members continued at a historically high level between mid-October 2018 and mid-May 2019, according to the Director-General’s latest mid-year report on trade-related developments presented to members on July 22.
The report, which was reviewed at a meeting of the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Body, notes that the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures implemented during the review period is estimated at US$339,5 billion, the second-highest figure on record after the US$588,3 billion reported in the previous period.
Together, these two periods represent a dramatic spike in the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures.
The report shows that trade tensions continued to dominate the headlines and add to the uncertainty surrounding international trade and the world economy, with G20 economies accounting for the overwhelming share of the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures during the review period.
It also provides evidence that this turbulence is continuing after the previous period (between mid-October 2017 and mid-October 2018) saw a record level of new restrictive measures introduced (US$588,3 billion).
Most of these measures remain in place and have now been added to by a series of new measures in the current period which are also at a historically high level.
The report shows that WTO members applied 38 new trade-restrictive measures during the review period mainly through tariff increases, import bans, special safeguards, import taxes and export duties.
The trade coverage of import-restrictive measures implemented between mid-October 2018 and mid-May 2019 is estimated at US$339,5 billion — 44 percent above the average since October 2012 when the report started including trade coverage figures.
The report also notes that several significant trade-restrictive measures either will be implemented shortly after the period covered or remain under consultation for potential later implementation, suggesting that the precarious situation in global trade will persist.
WTO members also implemented 47 new measures aimed at facilitating trade during the review period, including eliminating or reducing import tariffs, eliminating or simplifying customs procedures for exports and reducing import taxes.
At almost seven new trade-facilitating measures per month, this is the lowest monthly average registered since 2012.
The trade coverage of the import-facilitating measures implemented during the review period was estimated at US$398,2 billion.
During the review period, and for the first time since 2012, the number of terminations of trade remedy investigations by WTO members outpaced the number of initiations of trade remedy actions.
Sixteen trade remedy terminations per month and 14 trade remedy initiations were recorded, with the latter being the lowest monthly average registered since 2012.
Initiations of anti-dumping investigations continued to be the most frequent trade remedy action, accounting for three-quarters of all initiations. The trade coverage of trade remedy initiations recorded is estimated at US$20,2 billion and that of trade remedy terminations at US$16,4 billion.
At this critical juncture, the report calls on WTO members to follow through on their commitment to trade and to the rules-based international
trading system and work together urgently to
ease trade tensions and to improve and strengthen the WTO.
This report highlights the continuing challenges in global trade. Collectively, WTO members must follow through on their commitment to trade and to the rules-based international trading system and work together urgently to ease trade tensions and to improve and strengthen the WTO. — WTO.