COVID-19 resulted in lower trade measures among nations; WTO report

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
  • Follow author on
Representational Image

A recent report by the World Trade Organization has revealed that the number and coverage of trade-restrictive and trade-facilitating measures on goods enforced by G20 economies across the globe were considerably lower as international trade diminished due to the COVID-19 impact. 

Trade measures unrelated to COVID-19

The WTO’s latest Trade Monitoring Report on G20 trade measures shows that while trade coverage of ‘regular’ (unrelated to COVID-19) import-facilitating measures introduced during the five-month period declined to $36.8 billion (down from $735.9 billion in the previous period), import-restrictive measures were low at $42.9 billion (down from $417.5 billion) respectively.

The report cites the sharp decline in overall global trade flows, the diversion of governments’ attention towards pandemic response, and relative stasis in major bilateral trade tensions as primary reasons for the decline of both trade facilitating and trade restricting measures.

COVID-19 linked trade measures 

Meanwhile, the report shows that trade measures directly linked to the pandemic covered a significant amount of global trade.

COVID-19 related trade-facilitating measures on goods which were implemented since January covered trade worth an estimated $155 billion, while pandemic-related trade-restrictive measures most of which were export controls covered trade worth $111 billion.

The report points out that 63 percent of the 133 COVID-19 trade and trade-related measures recorded for G20 economies since the outbreak of the pandemic were of a trade-facilitating nature while 37 percent were trade-restrictive.

According to the report, close to 30 percent of all COVID-19 restrictive measures on goods taken by G20 economies, most of which were export restrictions, were remove by Mid-October.

In the services sectors, one of the heavily impacted segments, most of the 68 COVID-19 related measures adopted by G20 economies appeared to be trade-facilitating.

Over 400 support measures in direct response to the pandemic and collectively worth several trillion dollars were put in place by G20 economies up until mid-October.

The global trade body estimates of the accumulated stockpile of import restrictions implemented since 2009 imply that 10.4 percent of G20 goods imports ($1.5 trillion out of a total $14.6 trillion of G20 imports) are affected by import restrictions that are still in force after being put in place by G20 economies.

The report also shows that G20 economies continued to use WTO bodies to address trade concerns. Although fewer meetings took place during the review period as a result of the pandemic, several of these concerns had been raised in the past, appearing to indicate persistent and unresolved issues.