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The report shows a marked decline in trade restrictions by WTO members amidst COVID-19 pandemic.

The Director-General’s latest annual overview of trade-related developments shows a marked slowdown in the number of trade-restrictive and trade-facilitating measures adopted by WTO members related to goods trade over the past year. The report, presented at a 11 December meeting of the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB), notes the decrease observed in regular measures between mid-October 2019 and mid-October 2020 was mainly the result of the sharp decline in overall global trade since the COVID-19 outbreak. The document at the same time provides information about the numerous trade-facilitating and support measures introduced by WTO economies in response to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in order to ensure a solid economic recovery.

1. This WTO Trade Monitoring Report covers new trade and trade-related measures implemented by WTO Members between 16 October 2019 and 15 October 2020. It was prepared against the dramatic backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the human, social and economic problems left in its wake. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, WTO Members have implemented several new trade and trade related policies specifically to cope with the crisis. This Report seeks to shed light on these policy developments in addition to the regular trade measures monitored for the review period.
2. Overall, the findings of this Report present a very different picture compared to the last report. While the previous Report, issued in July 2020, captured only the very early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this Trade Monitoring Report reflects more fully the impact the global health crisis has had on trade and trade policy. Although world trade had already been slowing before the pandemic, merchandise exports in nominal USD terms were down 21% in Q2 compared to the previous year while commercial services exports were down 30%. WTO Members and Observers introduced the lowest number of regular trade-restrictive and trade facilitating measures since 2012. The trade coverage of the regular import-facilitating measures stood at USD 731.3 billion (up from USD 544.7 billion in the previous period) while that of import restrictions came in at USD 440.9 billion (down from USD 746.9 billion). This was likely as a result of the sharp decline in overall global trade flows, the diversion of governments' attention towards fighting the pandemic – through trade policy as well as other areas, a relative stasis in major bilateral trade tensions that had elevated the trade coverage of import restrictions in earlier reporting periods, and a general commitment to keep trade flowing. 
3. At the same time, the trade coverage of COVID-19 related trade-facilitating measures on goods implemented since the beginning of the pandemic was estimated at USD 227 billion, some USD 47 billion more than that of the COVID-19 trade-restrictive measures. Of the 335 COVID-19 trade and trade-related goods measures recorded for WTO Members and Observers since the outbreak of the pandemic, 58% were of a trade-facilitating nature and 42% were trade restrictive. Around 39% of COVID-19 restrictive measures on goods had been repealed by mid-October. In the services sectors heavily impacted by the pandemic, most of the 124 COVID-19 related measures adopted by WTO Members appeared to be trade facilitating. Over 1,000 support measures in direct response to the pandemic, and collectively worth several trillion US dollars, were put in place up until mid October. These emergency support measures are central to governments’ strategies to address the pandemic-induced economic downturn, appear to be temporary in nature and are important to preparing the ground for a sustainable recovery in which trade can play an important role.