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‘Trade restrictions by WTO members at high levels’

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The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has stated that trade restrictions by WTO members continue at historically high levels.

According to the Body, between mid-October 2018 and mid-October 2019, the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures implemented by members was estimated at $747 billion. This is the highest trade coverage recorded since October 2012 and represents an increase of 27% compared to the figure recorded in the previous annual overview ($588 billion).

The report notes that new trade restrictions and increasing trade tensions added to the uncertainty surrounding international trade and the world economy.“The report’s findings should be of serious concern for WTO members and the broader international community. Historically high levels of trade-restrictive measures are hurting growth, job creation and purchasing power around the world.

“Strong collective leadership from the membership would make an important contribution to increasing certainty, encouraging investment and bolstering trade and economic growth. Without such action, however, unfavourable trends could become worse”, says WTO, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.

The report shows that 102 new trade-restrictive measures were put in place by members during the review period, including tariff increases, quantitative restrictions, stricter customs procedures, and imposition of import taxes and export duties.
The main sectors targeted by the new import restrictions were mineral and fuel oils (17.7%), machinery and mechanical appliances (13%), electrical machinery and parts thereof (11.7%) and precious metals (6%).

WTO Secretariat estimates suggest that the accumulated stockpile of import restrictions introduced since 2009, and still in force, currently affects 7.5% of world imports. At the end of 2018, $1.5 trillion out of a total $19.5 trillion of world imports were estimated to be affected by import restrictions put in place by WTO members over the last decade. As of mid-October 2019, this trade coverage was estimated at $1.7 trillion, suggesting that the stockpile of import restrictions has continued to grow.

During the same review period, WTO members also implemented 120 new measures aimed at facilitating trade, including reducing or eliminating tariffs, export duties and import taxes.


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