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Growth in New Trade Restrictions by WTO Members Slows, Report Finds

Wednesday, December 06, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

A recent World Trade Organization report finds that WTO members introduced fewer trade-restrictive measures from mid-October 2016 to mid-October 2017 compared to the previous year. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that at $169 billion the import-facilitating measures adopted during the review period covered twice the value of the import-restrictive measures implemented, which totaled $79 billion. He also highlighted the trade liberalization measures associated with the expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement, estimated at about $385 billion.   

According to the report, WTO members applied 108 new trade-restrictive measures from mid-October 2016 to mid-October 2017, an average of nine per month, down from 182 or an average of 15 trade-restrictive measures per month a year earlier. By comparison, WTO members also implemented during the review period 128 measures aimed at facilitating trade, an average of 11 per month, down from 216 or an average of 18 per month a year earlier. New import-restrictive measures included increased tariffs, customs procedures, quantitative restrictions, and local content measures, while new import-facilitating measures included eliminated or reduced tariffs and simplified customs procedures.

The initiation of trade remedy investigations remained the most frequently applied measure at around 46 percent of the total, with the initiation of antidumping investigations accounting for 83 percent of all trade remedy initiations. WTO members launched an average of 25 and terminated an average of 10 trade remedy investigations per month during the review period. The main sectors affected by trade remedy initiations were electrical machinery and parts thereof, iron and steel, articles of iron and steel, and wood and products thereof. India led the way with 55 new AD investigations during July 2016-June 2017, followed by the U.S. (47), Argentina (21), Canada (19), Turkey (19), and Australia (18). With regard to countervailing investigations, the U.S. led the way with 19 new cases during July 2016-June 2017, followed by Canada (6) and Australia (5).

The protection of human health or safety continues to represent the bulk of technical barriers to trade. With respect to services, several new measures were horizontal in nature – relating to measures affecting the supply of services through commercial presence and the movement of natural persons – while others pertained to a variety of sectors, including financial, communication, transport, and business services. As in the past, the majority of these services measures provided for additional liberalization or were aimed at strengthening or clarifying regulatory frameworks, although a number of the measures implemented appear to be trade restrictive.

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