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Azevêdo says rise in trade restrictions “cause for concern”

Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, in introducing his annual report “Developments in the International Trading Environment” to the Trade Policy Review Body on 8 December, said that “the stock of trade restrictions introduced by WTO members since 2008 continues to rise”. He said that “in a climate of economic uncertainty the continued accumulation of trade-restrictive measures poses a clear risk”.

  • This report shows that the stock of trade restrictions introduced by WTO Members since 2008 continues to rise. Remaining uncertainties in the global economy underline the need for Members to show restraint in the imposition of new measures and to effectively eliminate existing ones.
  • Of the 2,146 trade restrictive measures introduced by Members since October 2008, only 508 (24% of the total measures) have been removed. The total number of restrictive measures still in place now stands at 1,638 (76% of the total measures).
  • Members applied 168 new trade-restrictive measures during the period between mid November 2013 and mid-October 2014. This equates to over 15 new measures per month, compared with 14.6 in the previous period.
  •  Members introduced 177 trade-liberalizing measures during the period under review. Measured per month this figure is 16, compared with 8.2 in the previous period.
  • Greater transparency is needed from Members in order to improve the understanding of the operation and effects of non-tariff barriers to trade. These behind-the-border measures include regulatory measures and subsidies.
  •  While this report shows that the stock of new trade-restrictive measures has continued to rise, it also supports the conclusion that the overall trade policy response to the 2008 crisis has been significantly more muted than expected based on previous crises. The multilateral trading system has acted as an effective backstop against protectionism.