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December 5, 2017

International trade flows rebound strongly in 2017

Fewer trade-restrictive measures were implemented this year, new figures show, with international trade flows having rebounded strongly following a sharp slowdown in 2016.

Fewer trade-restrictive measures were implemented this year, new figures show, with international trade flows having rebounded strongly following a sharp slowdown in 2016.

For the period mid-October 2016 to mid-October 2017, World Trade Organization (WTO) members introduced 108 new trade-restrictive measures, including new or increased tariffs, customs regulations, quantitative restrictions and local content measures. This, however, equates to an average of nine measures per month and is lower than the 15 recorded in the year ago period.

The figures, published in the WTO Director-General’s annual overview report presented on 4 December, show members implemented 128 measures aimed at facilitating trade. But at almost 11 trade-facilitating measures per month, this remains significantly lower than the monthly average recorded in the previous annual overview report. The WTO does point out, however, that the estimated trade coverage of import-facilitating measures (US$169bn) is more than twice that of import-restrictive measures (US$79bn).

There was also a slight deceleration both in initiations of trade remedy investigations and in terminations of trade remedy measures compared to the previous annual overview and to the whole of 2016. The trade coverage of trade remedy initiations and terminations recorded in the report is estimated at $76bn and $12bn, respectively.

“The economic context for this year’s report is interesting, to say the least,” said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in his address. “International trade flows have rebounded strongly during the last 12 months after a sharp slowdown in 2016. In September we upgraded our forecast for trade growth in 2017. This was due to a sharp acceleration in global trade growth in the first half of the year. The original forecast was 2.4%, and we are now forecasting growth of 3.6%. This improved outlook is very welcome, but substantial risks that threaten the world economy remain in place and could easily undermine any trade recovery.

“Looking ahead, we need to keep up the hard work to help facilitate trade. And of course, this includes avoiding measures which can hamper and restrict trade flows. Further progress will require continued commitment. I urge members to redouble efforts to refrain from implementing new trade-restrictive measures, and to reverse existing measures.”

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