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30/06/2017 - 18:53hs

G20: restrictions on trade increase slightly

A survey from the WTO showed that 42 such policy measures were put in place by the bloc’s countries from October 2016 to May 2017. Their impact, however, is not as serious as trade facilitation actions.

São Paulo – In the lead-up to the G20 summit meeting due July 7 and 8 in Hamburg, Germany, the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued this Friday (30) a report on trade-related measures put in place by the bloc’s member countries from October 2016 to May 2017. It said 42 new trade-restrictive measures were adopted by G20 nations during this timeframe.

The measures include foreign trade tax hikes, customs regulations, and restriction of rules of origin. The WTO said an average of six measures went into effect each month, up slightly from the 2016 average, but lower than the one from 2009-2015.

The organization notes, however, that G20 countries also adopted 42 trade-facilitation measures, including fee cuts or reductions and streamlining of customs procedures. The monthly average was also six, in line with the preceding period, but part of a larger downward curve which began last year.

The WTO notes that the impact of facilitation measures far outweighs that of restrictive ones: USD 163 billion versus USD 47 billion. “In addition, liberalization associated with the 2015 expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA) continues to feature as an important contributor to trade facilitation,” reads a WTO press release. The deal’s expansion entails the elimination of charges on trade of 201 IT products. Fifty-four countries have subscribed to it, but Brazil is not one of them.

“The moderation and restraint that we have seen in trade policies shows that the trading system is doing its job in keeping global commerce flowing and resisting protectionism,” the press release quoted WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo as saying. “Nevertheless, there is a high level of economic and policy uncertainty, and therefore we need to remain vigilant,” he added.

Azevêdo stressed the need to avoid adopting more restrictive measures, as well to eliminate existing ones. “I urge G20 economies to continue showing leadership in supporting open and mutually beneficial trade,” he said. He believes the bloc must work to strengthen global trade and its rules, including by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February this year.

The WTO also reports that the measure most frequently applied by its member countries is the initiation of trade remedy investigations (antidumping, compensation and countervailing measures), which account for 50% of all trade-related measures taken in the period at hand. The report does not compute such actions as either trade-restrictive or trade facilitation measures, and adds that their impact on global trade is “relatively small.”

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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