The benefits of global trade need to be more widely spread and better understood, says World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in his latest overview of recent developments in the international trading system.
The annual report expresses concern about the introduction of a “worryingly high” number of new trade-restrictive measures amid “persistent” economic challenges in which trade and output growth is growing at the slowest pace since the financial crisis of 2009.
The latest monitoring report shows WTO members introduced 182 new trade-restrictive measures for the reporting period covering mid-October 2015 to mid-October 2016, or an average of just over 15 measures per month. While this represents a decline compared to the average 20 measures per month introduced during 2015.
“Trade restrictive measures can have a chilling effect on trade flows, with knock-on effects for economic growth and job creation. In the context of a challenging economic scenario, it is more important than ever that WTO members adopt policies which will support trade and ensure that its benefits reach as many people as possible,” Azevêdo said.
The report notes that of the 2,978 trade-restrictive measures put in place by WTO members since 2008, only 740 had been removed by mid-October 2016. The overall stock of measures has increased by almost 17% compared to the previous annual overview, with the total number of restrictive measures still in place now standing at 2,238.
At the same time, WTO members have continued to adopt trade-facilitating measures. Members implemented 216 new trade-facilitating measures during the period under review — an average of 18 measures per month, slightly above the average 2009-2015 trend. These include a number of import-liberalizing measures implemented in the context of the expanded Information Technology Agreement.
“The continued and persistent challenges faced by WTO members in the international economy and their consequences for world trade stress the need for WTO members to work together to resist protectionist pressures,” the report states.
Azevêdo said member countries need to “make the case for inclusive trade” and warned that failure to do so could pave the way to increased protectionism in the future.
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