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Trade Restrictions Accelerating Among WTO Members

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The World Trade Organization’s most recent Trade Monitoring Report finds that WTO members initiated an average of 22 new trade restrictive measures per month from mid-October 2015 to mid-May 2016, up significantly from the 15 recorded during the previous review period and close to the peak of 23 observed in 2011. Import tariff increases, customs procedures and various local content measures constituted the main factors behind this upward trend. WTO members also adopted 19 new trade facilitating measures per month during this period, up from 16.

According to the report, a quarter of trade-restrictive measures recorded for WTO members since 2008 had been removed as of mid-May, up from 15 percent in mid-October 2010. However, the rate of removal “remains too low to make a dent in the stockpile,” which currently stands at 2,127 and increased by 11 percent during the period at issue. This acceleration is “the last thing the global economy needs,” said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, and “could have a further chilling effect on trade flows, with knock-on effects for economic growth and job creation.”

The report found that during the reporting period WTO members initiated a higher number of trade remedy investigations per month, the overwhelming majority of which were antidumping measures. Metal (particularly steel) products, chemicals, plastics and rubber accounted for the largest shares of these initiations.

In addition, a monthly average of 14 general economic support measures were recorded, confirming an upward trend since the end of 2013 and edging closer to the highest monthly average recorded immediately after the onset of the global financial crisis. The main beneficiaries of such support included infrastructure programs (including several energy-related projects), various industries in the manufacturing sector, the agricultural sector and the telecommunications sector. Several programs provided specific support to export-related activities or enterprises, including small and medium-sized enterprises.

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