Trade policy restraint by G-20 economies and World Trade Organization members more broadly has prevented an acceleration of protectionist measures that would have further harmed the world economy as it dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new WTO report. The report documents that many restrictive trade measures on goods imposed at the start of the pandemic have been rolled back and that new liberalizing measures have been introduced.

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According to the report, during the period mid-October 2020 to mid-May 2021 G-20 economies implemented 35 new trade-facilitating measures with a trade value of $438 billion and 26 new trade-restrictive measures with a trade value of $123.9 billion. Monthly averages for the number of new measures were near the lowest seen since 2012, while the trade value of those measures was up significantly from the previous period.

COVID-related trade measures imposed since January 2020 included 101 of a trade-facilitating nature (with a trade value of $215.7 billion) and 39 of a trade-restrictive nature (with a trade value of $135.7 billion). Import tariff and tax reductions or eliminations (including on goods associated with the pandemic such as personal protective equipment, sanitizers, disinfectants, and medical equipment) accounted for about 60 percent of trade-facilitating measures, while export bans accounted for more than 90 percent of the restrictive measures.

However, G-20 economies have repealed about 22 percent of COVID-related trade-facilitating measures and 49 percent of trade-restrictive measures. Preliminary estimates show that of those measures still in force, those facilitating trade have a trade coverage of $96.5 billion while those restricting trade have a trade coverage of $98.8 billion, suggesting that the rollback of the former has been swifter than that of the latter.

The report adds that during the review period initiations of trade remedy investigations (primarily antidumping investigations) dropped precipitously. The monthly average of 15 was the lowest level on record (since 2012) and followed an all-time high of 33 during the previous period. In addition, the trade coverage of initiations was estimated at $15.9 billion, down from $34.1 billion in the previous period. On the other hand, the monthly average of trade remedy terminations (17) was the highest on record and the trade coverage of such measures soared from $2 billion to $14.2 billion.

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