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WTO Finds Huge Jump in Trade Restrictions but Facilitation Measures Up Also

Thursday, November 29, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

A recent World Trade Organization report finds that the amount of trade covered by new import-restrictive measures totaled $480.9 billion during the most recent reporting period, more than six times larger than the $74.1 billion registered during the previous period and the highest recorded since this measure was first calculated in 2012. The report also shows that the trade coverage of new import-facilitating measures rose significantly from $82.7 billion to $216 billion.

According to the WTO, this report shows that the trade-restrictive measures imposed in the context of current trade tensions – such as the Section 232 and 301 tariff increases imposed by the U.S. and the retaliatory duties imposed by its trading partners – are affecting hundreds of billions of dollars of imports. The proliferation of these measures and the uncertainty they create could place economic recovery in jeopardy, the WTO states, and further escalation would carry potentially large risks for global trade, economic growth, jobs, and consumer prices.

The WTO finds that G-20 economies applied 40 new trade-restrictive measures from mid-May to mid-October (compared to 39 from mid-October 2017 to mid-May 2018), including tariff increases, import bans, and export duties. The initiation of trade remedy investigations represented 68 percent of such measures and new antidumping investigations accounted for nearly 75 percent of initiations. There was an average of 17 initiations per month (down from 22) compared to 12 terminations (up from 11). The trade coverage of initiations increased fell from $52.3 billion to $25 billion while the trade coverage of terminations remained steady at $5.8 billion. The main sectors affected by initiations were iron and steel and products thereof, furniture, bedding, mattresses, and electrical machinery and parts thereof.

G-20 economies also adopted 33 new measures aimed at facilitating trade (down from 47), such as the elimination or reduction of tariffs and export duties. Liberalization associated with the 2015 expansion of the World Trade Organization Information Technology Agreement continued to feature as an import contributor to trade facilitation.

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