About 363 new trade and trade-related measures were implemented by countries worldwide from mid-October 2019 to mid-May 2020, of which 71% were linked to the pandemic, according to a new report from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The report said that of these newly implemented measures, 256 (about 71%) were connected to the COVID-19 crisis, while 107 were not connected. Of the aggregate, 198 were trade-facilitating and 165 trade-restrictive.
Director-general Roberto Azevêdo, who presented the latest mid-year trade report to WTO member countries on July 24, said that while import-restrictive measures on global trade remain high, there has also been a shift towards import-facilitating measures, including products related to the COVID-19 crisis.
“The report makes clear that a substantial share of world trade continues to be affected by new and accumulated import-restrictive measures, which is cause for concern at a time when economies will need trade to rebuild from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Azevêdo.
“On a more positive note, the report shows that members also introduced import-facilitating measures on an impressive scale, and have started to scale back trade restrictions introduced earlier in the pandemic,” he added.
Of the 256 trade and trade-related measures taken by countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from mid-October 2019 to mid-May 2020, about 147 measures (57%) facilitated trade and 109 restricted it. Export bans accounted for the totality of the pandemic-related export restrictions recorded during the review period.
“In the early stages of the pandemic, several of the measures introduced by WTO Members and Observers restricted the free flow of trade, principally for exports. But as at mid-May 2020, 57% of all COVID-19-related measures were trade-facilitating. Around 28% of the COVID-19-specific trade restrictions implemented by WTO Members and Observers had been repealed by mid-May,” said Azevêdo.
Meanwhile, excluding COVID-19-related measures, there were 107 trade and trade-related measures recorded during the review period. These included 51 new measures aimed at facilitating trade, mainly on the elimination or reduction of import tariffs, elimination of import taxes, simplification of customs procedures, and reduction of export duties.
The remaining 56 new trade-restrictive measures unrelated to the pandemic were mainly on tariff increases, import bans, exports duties, and stricter exports customs procedures.
Also during the review period, 239 trade remedy actions were recorded. Initiations of anti-dumping investigations accounted for around 80% of all trade remedy initiations, which also included safeguards and countervailing actions.
In services, most of the new measures introduced between mid-October 2019 and mid-May 2020 were trade-facilitating, but a number appeared to be trade-restrictive, including in areas related to foreign investment and in areas considered strategic or linked to national security. Most of the 99 services measures adopted by WTO members and observers in response to the pandemic appeared to be trade-facilitating, said the WTO.
In addition, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 468 general economic support measures were implemented, most of which appeared to be temporary in nature. These measures included monetary, fiscal and financial measures as well as preferential loans, credit guarantees and stimulus packages, collectively worth several trillion US dollars.
During the review period, a higher volume of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT) measures got notified compared to the previous period. Most of the new notifications were submitted by developing countries.
As at May 15, 2020, there were 53 TBT notifications/communications on standards and regulations submitted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, covering a wide range of products including personal protective equipment, medical equipment, medical supplies, medicines and food.
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