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New Trade Restrictions Double; WTO Chief Calls for Restraint

Monday, July 09, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

A recent World Trade Organization report finds that the imposition of new trade restrictions by G-20 economies doubled during the most recent review period, a development that WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said “should be of real concern to the international community.” Azevêdo said this trend “poses a serious threat to growth and recovery in all countries” and therefore urged G-20 leaders to “show restraint in applying new measures and to urgently de-escalate the situation.”

The WTO’s latest monitoring report finds that G-20 economies applied 39 new trade-restrictive measures from mid-October 2017 to mid-May 2018 (up from the 16 registered from mid-May to mid-October 2017), including tariff increases, stricter customs procedures, and new taxes and export duties. The average of 5.6 such measures per month was twice as high as the previous review period and the estimated trade coverage of these measures jumped from $32 billion to $74.1 billion.

The initiation of trade remedy investigations represented 49 percent of trade measures recorded, and new antidumping investigations accounted for nearly 80 percent of initiations. There was an average of 22 initiations per month (up from 19) compared to 11 terminations (up from six). The trade coverage of initiations increased from $29.4 billion to $52.3 billion while the trade coverage of terminations rose from $1 billion to $6.2 billion. The main sectors affected by initiations were iron and steel, plastics and plastic products, vehicles, auto parts and accessories, and iron and steel products.

G-20 economies also adopted 47 new measures aimed at facilitating trade (up from 28), such as the elimination or reduction of tariffs, the simplification of import and export customs procedures, and the reduction of import taxes. The average of nearly seven such measures per month was marginally higher than the previous review period but the estimated trade coverage of trade-facilitating measures soared from $27 billion to $82.7 billion.

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