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Most Quantitative Trade Restrictions Notified to WTO Affect Imports, Report Finds

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The World Trade Organization reports that 27 WTO members have notified a total of 731 quantitative restrictions on trade since 2012, with two-thirds being import measures and one-third being export measures.

According to the WTO, most of the QRs notified are non-automatic licensing procedures (123 on exports and 211 on imports), prohibitions (84 on exports and 224 on imports) and conditional prohibitions (58 on exports and 73 on imports). Most are concentrated in Harmonized System Chapter 29 (organic chemicals; 120), followed by Chapter 84 (nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, parts thereof; 87), and Chapter 38 (miscellaneous chemical products; 70). Quotas, either global or allocated by country, represent a small percentage of the total number of notified QR measures.

While the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade requires the general elimination of QRs, which include prohibitions and other restrictions on trade that do not take the form of a tariff or a tax, QRs are allowed in a number of defined circumstances, ranging from general and security exceptions covered under articles XX and XXI of the GATT to several other WTO agreements (e.g., balance of payments, safeguards, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, etc.). Pursuant to a July 2012 decision by the WTO’s Goods Council, members must notify all QRs in force at two-year intervals and any changes to those restrictions no later than six months from their entry into force. However, the WTO notes that the number of notifications received to date has been low, meaning that the information provided in this report is not necessarily representative of the universe of QRs being implemented by all WTO members.

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