WTO boss urges G20 countries to reduce trade restrictions on food, fertilizers
World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has urged G20 nations to end the export restrictions on food, feed and fertilisers, which are compromising the predictable flow of food through international markets and contributing to price volatility.
The call contained the WTO Trade Monitoring Report on G20 trade measures.
At a time when food affordability remains a major global concern, especially for developing nations, she said this is giving the global trade body a huge source of concern.
Recall that G20 economies introduced substantially more trade-facilitating than trade-restrictive measures on goods between mid-October 2022 and mid-May 2023.
The report released on Tuesday shows that the war in Ukraine, COVID-19 after-effects, extreme weather and high food and energy prices continue to cause uncertainty in global trade.
“It is welcome that G20 economies have been taking more steps to facilitate imports, underscoring how trade is a tool to push back against inflationary pressures. I call on them to show leadership by continuing to reduce the number and trade coverage of export restrictions, particularly on food, feed and fertilizers, to help dampen the price volatility that makes life harder for people around the world. G20 economies must continue to show restraint in implementing trade-restrictive measures and exercise leadership in supporting open and mutually beneficial trade,” she said.
The report is set against a backdrop of pronounced weakening of merchandise trade, which slumped during the fourth quarter of 2022 and appears to have remained below trend in the first quarter of 2023.
World merchandise trade volume growth is expected to slow from 2.7 per cent in 2022 to 1.7 per cent in 2023, before picking up to 3.2 per cent in 2024. The report points to the increase since 2020 in the implementation of new export restrictions by WTO members, first in the context of the pandemic and subsequently with the war in Ukraine and the food security crisis.
As of mid-May 2023, WTO members still had 63 export restrictions in place on food, feed and fertilizers, down from the total of 101 that had been introduced since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. In addition, 21 COVID-19-related export restrictions remain in force. Of these, G20 economies were maintaining 19 of the export restrictions on food, feed and fertilizers and 12 of the pandemic-related export restrictions.
During the review period, G20 economies introduced 77 new trade-facilitating and 41 trade-restrictive measures on goods. Most of them were import measures. The trade coverage of G20 trade-facilitating measures was estimated at USD 691.9 billion (up from $451.8 billion in the last report, issued in November 2022) and that of trade-restrictive measures at $88 billion (down from $160.1 billion).
Overall, there is no sign of a rollback of the accumulated stockpile of G20 import restrictions introduced since the global financial crisis. By the end of 2022, 11.1 per cent of G20 imports were affected by import restrictions implemented since 2009 and still in force.
Anti-dumping continued to be the most frequent trade remedy action in terms of initiations and terminations. The significant decline in the number of trade remedy initiations since 2021 may represent efforts by members to ensure that their territories remain well stocked and accessible for a wide range of products.
About services trade, some 34 new measures were introduced by G20 economies during the review period, mostly of a trade-facilitating nature, for instance when it comes to commercial presence by a service provider or the presence of natural persons of one member in the territory of another member.
The review period saw the introduction of numerous new economic support measures by G20 economies, including environmental impact reduction programmes, renewable-energy production schemes and support for energy efficiency, decarbonisation and support programmes for the agricultural sector.
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