Most of the trade and trade-related measures taken by G-20 economies in recent months, when individual countries and the global economy have struggled to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, have been aimed at facilitating rather than restricting imports, according to a new World Trade Organization report. Even so, the stock of import-restrictive measures in force continues to increase.
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According to the WTO, 60 percent of the measures taken during the period October 2019 to May 2020, including 65 facilitating trade and 28 restricting trade, were linked to the pandemic. Of the restrictive measures, more than 90 percent were export bans on medical products such as surgical masks, gloves, medicine, and disinfectant. About 36 percent of these restrictions had been repealed as of mid-May.
Excluding pandemic-related measures, G-20 members imposed 31 new trade-restrictive measures covering an estimated $417.5 billion in trade, the third-highest figure recorded since May 2012 but a 9.4 percent decrease from the May-October 2019 period. Tariff increases, import bans, stricter customs procedures, export duties, and other such measures introduced during this period affected 2.8 percent of G-20 trade, and restrictions implemented since 2009 and still in force affected an estimated 10.3 percent of G-20 imports ($1.6 trillion).
However, G-20 members also took 30 new import-facilitating measures unrelated to the pandemic covering an estimated $735.9 billion, up from $92.6 billion during the previous period and the highest level recorded since November 2014. These measures include tariff reductions, the elimination of import taxes, and the reduction of export duties.