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WTO report finds no acceleration in trade restrictions but slow pace for barrier removal

WTO members have continued to show some restraint in introducing new trade-restrictive measures and have also adopted a record number of trade facilitation measures during the period of October 2014 to October 2015 according to the Director-General’s annual report on trade-related developments. However, the report, which was discussed at the 9 December meeting of the Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB), raises concerns over the increase in the stockpile of trade-restrictive measures recorded since 2008.

  • In the reporting period between mid-October 2014 and mid-October 2015, WTO Members applied 178 new trade-restrictive measures. This equates to a monthly average of just under 15 new measures per month which is stable and comparable to the previous reporting period. 
  • The overall stockpile of restrictive measures introduced by WTO Members nevertheless continues to grow. Of the 2,557 trade-restrictive measures, including trade remedies, introduced by WTO Members since 2008 and recorded by this exercise, only 642 had been removed by mid-October 2015.
  •  The total number of those restrictive measures still in place now stands at 1,915 – up by 17% compared to the last annual report. 75% of trade-restrictive measures implemented since 2008 remain in place.
  •  Although WTO Members are eliminating some of their trade-restrictive measures, the rate at which this is done remains insufficient to seriously dent the stockpile.
  •  More encouragingly the report finds that a total of 222 measures aimed at facilitating trade were taken, – a monthly average of almost 19 measures – the second highest number since the beginning of the monitoring exercise.
  •  The number of trade remedy investigations by WTO Members has fallen during this reporting period.  This decline is primarily because of a drop in the number of anti-dumping initiations and confirms a trend identified in the last monitoring report.
  •  During this review period, global economic growth remained modest, and continued to be unevenly distributed across countries and regions. The downturn in world trade observed at the time of the last monitoring report continued in the second quarter of the year.   
  •  The WTO Secretariat recently (30 September 2015) lowered its forecast for world merchandise trade volume growth in 2015 from 3.3% to 2.8% and reduced its estimate for 2016 from 4.0% to 3.9%.
  • Looking towards the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December, WTO Members should reflect on the central role of the multilateral trading system as a predictable and transparent framework helping Members resist protectionist pressures and as a stable and inclusive platform for pursuing further multilateral trade liberalization.