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Trade-restrictive measures continue at historically high level

The DG's mid-year report on trade-related developments covering the period of mid-October 2018 to mid-May 2019, issued on 8 July, provides evidence that trade tensions continue, adding to the uncertainty surrounding international trade and the world economy.

Key Findings

  • This Report covers new trade and trade-related measures implemented by WTO Members between 16 October 2018 and 15 May 2019. During this period trade tensions continued to dominate the headlines and added to the uncertainty surrounding international trade and the world economy.
  • The Report provides evidence that this turbulence is continuing. The previous period saw a record level of new restrictive measures introduced. 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 of a historically high level.
  • The trade coverage of import-restrictive measures during the period is estimated at USD 339.5 billion. This is 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 downward trend identified between mid October 2014 and mid-October 2017 has been replaced with a steep increase in the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures. 
  • The Report also notes that several significant trade-restrictive measures, which fall outside of the review period, remain under consultation for potential later implementation. This further compounds the challenges faced by governments, businesses and consumers in the current global economic environment.
  • In terms of the number of measures introduced, WTO Members implemented 38 new trade restrictive measures during the review period including tariff increases, import bans, special safeguards, import taxes and export duties. While fewer measures were introduced during this review period than in previous periods, the scale of those measures is much increased in terms of their trade coverage and the level of tariffs imposed. Trade measures implemented by G20 economies account for the overwhelming share of the trade coverage of import restrictive measures recorded in this Report.
  • WTO Members also implemented 47 new measures aimed at facilitating trade during the review period, including eliminating or reducing import tariffs, eliminating or simplifying customs procedures for exports and reducing import taxes. The trade coverage of the import facilitating measures implemented during the review period was estimated at USD 398.2 billion.
  • The monthly average of 14 initiations of trade remedy actions during the review period is the lowest registered since 2012. The trade coverage of trade remedy initiations (USD 20.2 billion) has fallen significantly compared to the previous period. The trade coverage of trade remedy terminations recorded in the review period (USD 16.4 billion) has also fallen compared to the previous Report.
  • This Report highlights the continuing challenges in global trade. Collectively, WTO Members must follow through on their commitment to trade and to the rules-based international trading system and work together urgently to ease trade tensions and to improve and strengthen the WTO.