New WTO report on G20 shows restraint in new pandemic-related trade restrictions

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G20 economies have continued to roll back COVID-19-related trade-restrictive measures and demonstrated restraint in the imposition of new ones, but the value of trade covered by pandemic-related restrictions still in place now exceeds that of trade-facilitating measures, according to the latest WTO Trade Monitoring Report on G20 trade measures released today (28 October).

Ahead of a G20 leaders’ summit in Rome this weekend, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called on G20 economies to continue to unwind pandemic-related trade restrictions and to push for a strong WTO response to the pandemic at the 12th Ministerial Conference.

“Trade has been central to combating the pandemic – a lifeline for access to medical supplies and food,” the Director-General said. “The multilateral trading system has played an instrumental role in encouraging restraint in the use of trade restrictions. This is paying dividends now, with trade emerging as an important driver of the post-pandemic economic recovery. To secure the recovery and extend it to include all countries, we must ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. For this, we need smoothly functioning supply chains for these products, unimpeded by trade restrictions and other bottlenecks.” She urged G20 economies to unwind the pandemic-related trade restricting-measures still in place.

With the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) only a few weeks away (30 November – 3 December), DG Okonjo-Iweala added: “G20 economies must show leadership in helping WTO members deliver a strong response to the pandemic at MC12. This would help all countries respond more effectively to COVID-19 and better prepare for future pandemics.”

The report indicates that during the review period (mid-May to mid-October 2021) G20 economies generally demonstrated restraint in the imposition of new trade-restrictive measures related to the pandemic and are supporting the recovery by continuing to roll back restrictions adopted earlier in the crisis. However, despite the relatively low number of COVID-19 trade restrictions still in place, their estimated trade coverage was almost double (USD 88.4 billion) that of trade-facilitating measures (USD 48.2 billion).

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 144 COVID-19 trade and trade-related measures in goods have been implemented by G20 economies. Of these, 105 (73%) were of a trade-facilitating nature and 39 (27%) could be considered trade restrictive. Export restrictions accounted for 95% of all restrictive measures recorded, and of these, 54% had been phased out by mid-October 2021. A total of 18 trade restrictions remained in place, of which 17 are export restrictions. Around 20% of the trade-facilitating measures have been rolled back – 85 of those measures are still in place.

During the review period, a limited number of new COVID-19 trade and trade-related measures were recorded for G20 economies on goods, mainly consisting of extensions or terminations of measures originally implemented early in the pandemic. Similarly, the flow of new COVID-19-related support measures by G20 economies to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic decreased over the past five months. Many of the programmes implemented have being phased out or adjusted to take into account new circumstances and to prepare for the post-pandemic recovery. Services sectors were heavily impacted by the pandemic, and 65 of the 73 reported COVID-19-related measures affecting trade in services put in place by G20 economies in response to the pandemic are still in force.

Regarding non-COVID-19-related trade measures, 25 new trade-facilitating and 14 trade-restrictive measures on goods were recorded for G20 economies. The monthly averages of both trade-facilitating and trade-restrictive measures are among the lowest since 2012. The trade coverage of the import-facilitating measures introduced during the review period was estimated at USD 36 billion and that of import-restrictive measures stood at USD 4.2 billion.

Despite the modest number of trade restrictions put in place during this review period, the stockpile of G20 import restrictions has grown steadily since 2009 – both in value terms and as a percentage of world imports. By mid-October 2021, 10.41% of imports by G20 economies were affected by restrictions implemented since 2009 and still in force.

In addition, initiations of trade remedy investigations by G20 economies declined sharply during the review period after peaking in 2020. Trade remedy actions remain an important trade policy tool for G20 economies, accounting for 69% of all non-COVID-19-related trade measures on goods recorded in this report.

Source: WTO