G20 Nations Trade Restrictions Increased: WTO Report

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According to the WTO’s seventeenth monitoring report on Group of 20 (G20) trade measures, the trade restrictions in G20 economies have risen at a moderate rate similar to that of previous years, despite the uncertainty facing the global economy.

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

The report calls on G20 governments to show leadership in supporting open and mutually beneficial trade as a driver of economic growth and development.

A total of 42 new trade-restrictive measures were applied by G20 economies during the review period (mid-October 2016 to mid-May 2017), including new or increased tariffs, customs regulations and rules of origin restrictions. This is an average of six measures per month – slightly higher than in 2016 but below the longer-term trend observed in 2009-2015 of seven per month.

G20 economies also implemented 42 measures aimed at facilitating trade during the review period, including the elimination or reduction of tariffs and the simplification of customs procedures.

At an average of six new trade-facilitating measures per month, this represents a similar level compared to the previous reporting period (mid-May to mid-October 2016) and is in line with the declining trend observed in 2016.

It is notable that the estimated trade coverage of trade-facilitating measures implemented by G20 economies (US$163 billion) significantly exceeded the estimated trade coverage of trade restrictive measures (US$47 billion).

In addition, liberalization associated with the 2015 expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA) continues to feature as an important contributor to trade facilitation

The initiation of trade remedy investigations (which the report does not classify as restrictive or facilitating) remained the most frequently applied measure, representing 50% of all trade measures taken during the review period. However, the amount of trade covered by these is relatively small (US$25 billion for trade remedy initiations and US$6 billion for terminations of duties).

The main sectors affected by trade remedy initiations were wood and articles of wood; vehicles; and furniture, bedding material, and lamps. Main sectors where trade remedy duties were terminated were articles of iron and steel; machinery and mechanical appliances; and aluminum and articles thereof.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE REPORT:

G20 economies applied 42 new trade-restrictive measures during the review period (mid-October 2016 to mid-May 2017), including new or increased tariffs, customs regulations and rules of origin restrictions. This equates to an average of six measures per month which is slightly higher than in 2016, but below the longer-term trend observed from 2009-2015 of seven per month.

G20 economies also applied 42 measures aimed at facilitating trade over this review period, including eliminated or reduced tariffs and simplified customs procedures. This equates to an average of six new measures per month which is similar to the previous period and in line with the declining trend in the application of trade facilitating measures observed in 2016.

During the review period, the estimated trade coverage for trade facilitating measures (US$163 billion) significantly exceeded the estimated trade coverage of trade restrictive measures (US$47 billion).

This Report harmonizes the approach taken to trade remedies in the G20 Monitoring Report with that of the WTO-wide Report by introducing a separate annex for trade remedy measures. It is of interest to note that initiations of trade remedy investigations represented 50% of the total trade measures taken during the review period; although the amount of trade covered is relatively small (US$25 billion for trade remedy initiations and US$6 billion for terminations).

Transparency and predictability in trade policy remains vital for all actors in the global economy. The G20 should show leadership in reiterating their commitment to open and mutually beneficial trade as a key driver of economic growth and a major engine for prosperity.

Faced with continuing global economic uncertainties, the G20 should seek to continue improving the global trading environment, including by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February this year, and working together to achieve a successful outcome at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December.

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