Trade Flow Restrictions Hit Historically High Level

Trade flows hit by new restrictions implemented by WTO members continued at a historically high level between mid-October 2018 and mid-May 2019, according to the Director-General´s latest mid-year report on trade-related developments presented to members on 22 July.

The report, which was reviewed at a meeting of the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Body, notes that the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures implemented during the review period is estimated at USD 339.5 billion, the second-highest figure on record after the USD 588.3 billion reported in the previous period. Together, these two periods represent a dramatic spike in the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures.

The report shows that trade tensions continued to dominate the headlines and add to the uncertainty surrounding international trade and the world economy, with G20 economies accounting for the overwhelming share of the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures during the review period.

It also provides evidence that this turbulence is continuing after the previous period (between mid-October 2017 and mid-October 2018) saw a record level of new restrictive measures introduced (USD 588.3 billion). Most of these measures remain in place and have now been added to by a series of new measures in the current period which are also at a historically high level.

The report shows that WTO members applied 38 new trade-restrictive measures during the review period mainly through tariff increases, import bans, special safeguards, import taxes and export duties.

During the review period, and for the first time since 2012, the number of terminations of trade remedy investigations by WTO members outpaced the number of initiations of trade remedy actions.

Sixteen trade remedy terminations per month and 14 trade remedy initiations were recorded, with the latter being the lowest monthly average registered since 2012. Initiations of anti-dumping investigations continued to be the most frequent trade remedy action, accounting for three-quarters of all initiations.

The trade coverage of trade remedy initiations recorded is estimated at USD 20.2 billion and that of trade remedy terminations at USD 16.4 billion.

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