WTO report shows drive to facilitate imports

Imports and Exports | | MIC Customs Solutions |

After an initial panic during the pandemic, nations are working to make importing easier, data shows.

The latest report from the World Trade Organization (WTO) has pointed to an increase in new measures designed to facilitate trade, particularly imports.

Its document - the 23rd to be published - was the first to assess figures relating to a global pandemic and covers the period from mid-October 2019 to mid-May 2020.

The data shows that during the study timeframe, G20 nations implemented 154 new trade and trade-related measures, 95 of which were import facilitative and 59 of which proved import-restrictive.

It is interesting to note that after the initial outbreak of COVID-19, many governments introduced restrictions on trade such as export bans on surgical equipment as a knee-jerk reaction and a desire to protect their own economies.

However, G20 economies have since repealed 36 per cent of these restrictions and also lowered additional barriers to the importation of pandemic-related products, demonstrating a reduction in the fear of healthcare systems being overwhelmed.

The report also found that tariff increases, import bans, stricter customs procedures and export duties affected 2.8 per cent of G20 trade during the study period and that import-restrictive measures implemented since 2009 now affect 10.3 per cent of G20 imports.

However, there were indications of a move towards open trade policies, with import-facilitating measures such as tariff reductions proving to be the highest recorded since 2014.

Furthermore, as of mid-May 2020, around 70 per cent of pandemic-related trade measures implemented were designed to boost imports and trade, suggesting a willingness to help other countries as well as to recover after the worst of the pandemic.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said: "Historically high levels of trade-restrictive measures remain a source of concern, all the more so at a time when international trade and investment will be critical to rebuild economies, businesses and livelihoods around the world. That said, we also see some encouraging indications: not since 2014 have import-facilitating measures implemented during a single monitoring period covered more trade."

According to recent WTO figures, world trade has fallen sharply in the first half of the year due to coronavirus, with even optimistic predictions suggesting world GDP could decline by 2.5 per cent.