Countries continuing to introduce trade-facilitating measures: WTO

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A new WTO report has found the number of new trade facilitation measures is outpacing rules aimed at restricting trade.

Countries around the world are continuing to put in place improved measures to facilitate international trade, despite concerns that geopolitical uncertainty would contribute to a more protectionist atmosphere, a new report has found.

The study by the World Trade Organization (WTO) revealed that between October 2023 and May this year, a total of 169 new trade facilitation measures were put in place around the world. This compares with 99 rules that aimed to restrict trade.

It also noted that the majority of restrictive measures were aimed at imports, while the introduction of new export restrictions declined significantly during the review period. This reverses a trend observed between 2021 and 2023, when new export restrictions outpaced measures to curb imports.

Director-general of the WTO Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala welcomed the findings of the report, noting that it "underscores the resilience of world trade despite the challenging geopolitical environment".

She added that although rising economic fragmentation and signs of protectionist pressures remain, it is good to see that governments around the world are still taking meaningful steps to liberalize and facilitate trade. This speaks to the clear benefits that trade can offer in terms of individuals' purchasing power, business competitiveness and price stability.

However, Ms Okonjo-Iweala cautioned that a significant portion of global trade is likely to be affected by a more recent series of import-restriction measures that have been introduced  since the end of the report's review period. These include new tariffs imposed by the EU on shipments of Chinese-made electric vehicles, which came into force on July 4th.

The WTO's report also found that currently, some 9.7 percent of total world imports - equating to $2.27 billion worth of goods - are hampered by restrictions such as tariffs, quotas or other measures.