WTO Report Shows Increase in Trade Restrictions on Food, Fertilizer

Oluchi Chibuzor

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General’s annual overview of developments in the international trading environment has shown that trade restrictions are increasing, particularly on food, feed and fertilizers, while the stockpile of import restrictions in force also continues to grow.

Speaking at her annual WTO Trade Monitoring Report presentation at a meeting of the Trade Policy Review Body, the Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called on WTO members to refrain from adopting new trade-restrictive measures.

According to her, particularly export restrictions that can further contribute to a worsening of the global economic outlook, while urging them to cooperate to keep markets open and predictable in order to allow goods to move around the world to where they are needed.

“Members have increasingly implemented new trade restrictions, in particular on the export side, first in the context of the pandemic and more recently in the context of the war in Ukraine and the food security crisis. Although some of these export restrictions have been lifted, many others persist,” she said. 

“Out of the 78 export restrictive measures on food, feed, and fertilizers introduced since the start of the war in late February, 57 are still in place, covering roughly $56.6 billion of trade. These numbers have increased since mid-October, which should be a cause for concern.

“As I told G20 Leaders at their summit in Indonesia a few weeks ago, lifting those export restrictions is fundamental to reduce price spikes and volatility and to allow goods to flow to where they are urgently needed,” she added.

During the review period for the report, from mid-October 2021 to mid-October 2022, WTO members introduced more trade-facilitating (376) than trade-restrictive (214) measures on goods (unrelated to the pandemic), with the average number of trade-facilitating measures per month at its highest since 2012. 

Most of the facilitation happened on the import side while most of the restrictions were on the export side and for the first time since the beginning of the monitoring exercise in 2009, the number of export restrictions outpaced that of import restrictions.

According to the WTO, the trade coverage of the trade-facilitating measures was estimated at $1,160.5 billion, and that of the trade-restrictive measures at $278.0 billion, noting the stockpile of import restrictions in force also continued to grow. 

However, by mid-October 2022, over nine percent of global imports continue to be affected by import restrictions implemented since 2009 and which are still in force.

According to WTO, “Initiations of trade remedy investigations declined sharply during the review period (10.9 initiations per month, the lowest since 2012) after reaching its highest peak in 2020 (36.1 initiations per month). These actions remain an important trade policy tool for many members, accounting for 37.4 percent of all non-COVID-19-related trade measures on goods recorded. Anti-dumping continues to be the most frequent trade remedy action in terms of initiations and terminations.”

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