A recent World Trade Organization report revises the way the WTO calculates measures to restrict and facilitate trade among G-20 member countries and paints a picture of what WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo called “moderation and restraint … in trade policies.”
The WTO’s latest monitoring report on G-20 trade measures halts the classification of new trade remedy investigations as trade-restrictive measures to harmonize with the approach used in the WTO’s monitoring reports for all members. Using this new metric, the report finds that G-20 economies applied 42 new trade-restrictive measures from mid-October 2016 to mid-May 2017, an average of six per month, which “is slightly higher than in 2016 but below the longer-term trend observed from 2009-2015 of seven per month.” These measures include new or increased tariffs, customs regulations, and rules of origin restrictions, and the WTO states that most of them appear to have been taken within the flexibilities provided for in the multilateral trading system.
The report adds that there were 146 initiations of trade remedy investigations. The sectors most affected were wood and articles of wood; vehicles; and furniture, bedding material, and lamps. If this number is combined with the number of trade restrictive measures, the total of 188 represents a substantial increase from the 85 recorded in the previous six-month period.
G-20 economies also adopted 42 new measures aimed at facilitating trade, which include the elimination of reduction of tariffs and the simplification of customs procedures but no longer include the termination of trade remedies. The report states that the average of six such measures per month “is similar to the previous period and in line with the declining trend in the application of trade facilitating measures observed in 2016.” The number of trade facilitating measures and trade remedy terminations totaled 104, compared to 100 in the previous period.
The report points out that the estimated trade coverage of trade-facilitating measures implemented by G-20 economies ($163 billion) significantly exceeded that of trade-restrictive measures ($47 billion). This holds true even when considering the value of trade remedy initiations ($25 billion) and terminations ($6 billion).