The WTO is projecting a 1.7% increase in world merchandise trade volume in 2016

The WTO is projecting a 1.7% increase in world merchandise trade volume in 2016

The benefits of global trade need to be more widely spread and better understood, according to a new report, which points to the introduction of a "worryingly high" number of new trade-restrictive measures amid continuing global economic uncertainty. 

World Trade Organization (WTO) members introduced 182 new trade-restrictive measures between mid-October 2015 and mid-October 2016 – an average of just over 15 measures per month – according to a recent annual overview by the intergovernmental organisation. 

While this represents a decline compared to the average 20 measures per month introduced during 2015, the number of new trade-restrictive measures being introduced remains worryingly high, the WTO says, given continuing global economic uncertainty and its downward revision on trade forecasts.

Indeed, 2,978 trade-restrictive measures have been put in place by WTO members since 2008, but only 740 had been removed by mid-October 2016, meaning the overall stock of measures has increased by around 17% on last year, with the total number of restrictive measures still in place now standing at 2,238.

The WTO is projecting a 1.7% increase in world merchandise trade volume in 2016, down from its earlier forecast of 2.8%. If this revised forecast is realised, this would mark the slowest pace of trade and output growth since the financial crisis of 2009. 

Consequently, the WTO's Trade Policy Review Body is urging members to work together to ensure the benefits of trade are more widely spread and better understood.

"Trade restrictive measures can have a chilling effect on trade flows, with knock-on effects for economic growth and job creation," says WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo. "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."

WTO members did, however, implement 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-liberalising 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. 

"WTO members must work together to ensure the benefits of trade are spread more widely and are better understood. A failure to make the case for inclusive trade could pave the way to increased protectionism in the future."

Click here to access the full report.