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A new report published by the European Commission shows that more than 330 trade restrictive measures have been taken by the European Union's major trade partners since the outbreak of the financial and economic crisis in 2008. Despite the economic recovery and contrary to the G20 commitment, a mere ten percent of those measures have been removed in the meantime.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: "With the economic recovery still fragile, the world's major economies must remove the trade restrictive measures that put a break on growth. For the world economy to move forward, we have to roll back these barriers. The G20 summit in Seoul needs to demonstrate leadership in this respect."
The latest report is the seventh in a series of reports which the European Commission has been issuing on trade restrictive measures adopted by major trade partners since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008. The monitoring mechanism has been an important tool to ensure vigilance during the crisis and prevent an escalation of trade protectionism.
The report covers thirty of the EU's trading partners over the two-year period from October 2008 to September 2010. The measures found range from classical trade barriers such as import bans or tariff increases to "buy national" and other behind-the-border policies. The report finds that many of the new barriers are rapidly becoming permanent features of the world trading system and risk undermining the economic recovery.
At the Washington Summit in November 2008, the G20 committed to a self-imposed standstill in terms of new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, new export restrictions or WTO inconsistent measures to stimulate exports. At the London Summit in April 2009, G20 members committed to rectifying measures that have already been taken. Successive summits, including the latest G20 summit in Toronto in June 2010, extended the commitments until 2013 and provided an explicit mandate to the WTO, OECD and UNCTAD to monitor and to report publicly on the evolution of the situation on a quarterly basis.
The EU is firmly committed to this pledge. Its own monitoring report complements the monitoring exercise done by the WTO. The main conclusions of the new report are as follows:
Between May and September 2010, 66 new trade restrictive measures have been introduced by the EU's trading partners. This brings the total figure of measures in force to 332 since the beginning of the crisis. The economic recovery under way in many countries has therefore not yet translated into a reversal of the tendency towards new trade restrictive measures noted in past reports.
Only about 10% of the measures taken in the context of the crisis have been withdrawn or have expired. This figure is clearly at odds with the repeated commitment made by G20 leaders and confirmed at the latest G20 Summit in Toronto to "rectify" such measures.
Among the countries investigated, Russia is once again confirmed as the trading partner with the most trade restrictive measures taken since the start of the crisis. This trend is further compounded by recent policy initiatives with a strong import substitution angle.
The 'Buy National' policy continues to give rise to concern with new measures taken by Brazil adding to the already very considerable body of existing measures.
The report covers measures from the following countries/customs territories: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, and Vietnam.
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