Over the period from mid-October 2019 to mid-May 2020, G20 economies implemented 154 new trade or trade-related measures, of which 60 percent were linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the COVID-19 related measures, 65 facilitated trade and 28 restricted trade.
G20 countries have now repealed 36 percent of trade restrictions introduced following the COVID-19 outbreak, including export bans on medical products.
The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 23rd biannual monitoring report on trade measures finds that the Group of 20 (G20) has continued to facilitate imports, particularly of products related to COVID-19. The report covers the period from mid-October 2019 to mid-May 2020, making it the first one to cover the coronavirus pandemic time period.
The report titled, ‘Report on G20 Trade Measures,’ finds that world trade “fell sharply” in the first half of 2020. Before the pandemic struck, world trade was already slowing due to slowing global economic growth and heightened trade tensions. G20 economies implemented 154 new trade or trade-related measures over the time period, of which 60 percent were linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the COVID-19 related measures, 65 facilitated trade and 28 restricted trade.
Overall, the report notes, 95 measures were of a trade-facilitating nature and 59 were trade-restrictive. New import-facilitating measures, such as the elimination of import taxes, reduction of export duties, and tariff reductions, amount to an estimated USD 735.9 billion in trade, the highest figure recorded since 2014. G20 countries introduced new import-restrictive measures unrelated to COVID-19, amounting to approximately USD 417.5 billion. These import bans, export duties, tariff increases, stricter customs procedures, and other measures affected 2.8 percent of G20 trade.
Although many governments introduced trade restrictions following the COVID-19 outbreak, including export bans on medical products, G20 countries have now repealed 36 percent of these restrictions. G20 countries have also lowered import barriers for many pandemic-related products. By mid-May, approximately 70 percent of pandemic-related trade measures were trade facilitating. In addition, governments implemented 468 COVID-19-related economic support measures such as one-off grants, stimulus packages, and support programmes.
The WTO report also highlights evidence of progress towards more open trade policies across sectors, including intellectual property, goods, and services. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed signs that trade-restrictive measures adopted during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic “are starting to be rolled back.” He called for building on these positive indicators and for G20 governments to “work together to facilitate a rapid and inclusive economic recovery.”
WTO members also continued to advance trade negotiations on fisheries subsidies in 2020, the report notes. In late 2019, members stated that they were “fully committed” to reaching an agreement at the June 2020 WTO Ministerial Conference. They affirmed that they were aiming to achieve an “ambitious outcome based on the mandate from” SDG target 14.6, to reach agreement on prohibiting fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. However, the Ministerial Conference was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and restrictions on movement and logistical challenges have hindered members’ ability to engage in detailed negotiations. Still, WTO Members have indicated that they “remain committed to a meaningful outcome.”
The WTO Secretariat has prepared the WTO trade monitoring reports since 2009. G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, and the US. [Publication: Report on G20 Trade Measures] [Report Summary] [WTO Press Release]