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Trade negotiations, WTO accessions, trade policy reviews and trade monitoring reports

The WTO agreements cover goods, services and intellectual property, spelling out the principles of liberalization of their trade and the permitted exceptions, including individual countries’ commitments to lower customs tariffs and other trade barriers and to open their services markets. 

WTO accessions

In 2016 the WTO has welcomed its 163rd and 164th members, respectively Liberia and Afghanistan. With these latest two additions, the WTO has successfully completed 36 accessions since its establishment in 1995; 9 of which acceded as LDCs. As of May 2018, 22 countries are in the process of negotiations on accession to WTO. 

Trade policy reviews and trade monitoring

WTO members implemented an increasing number of trade restrictive measures (totaling 137 new measures, equating to 11 new measures a month) from October 2017 to October 2018.6 Restrictive measures include tariff increases, quotas, import taxes and stricter customs regulations. 

The recorded trade coverage of trade remedy initiations and terminations is estimated at $93.6 billion ($17 billion more than a year ago) and $18.3 billion ($6 billion more), respectively.

In addition to the regular trade policy reviews of Members on an individual or regional basis, the WTO currently produces two series of trade moni¬toring reports: the WTO-wide reports on trade-related developments covering the whole WTO membership and observers; and joint reports with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UNCTAD on trade and investment measures taken by G-20 economies. These reports, among other things, track the status of the trade-restrictive measures recorded since 2008, including progress in eliminating them. The latest report can be found here

Non-tariff measures

Today, non-tariff measures (NTMs) exert an increasingly greater impact upon market access conditions facing developing-country exporters. NTMs are policy measures, other than ordinary customs tariffs, that can have an economic effect on international trade. NTMs thus includes a wide and diverse array of policies that countries apply to imported and exported goods.

Among the various types of NTMs, technical barriers to trade (TBT), which include measures such as product safety standards, are most frequently used across products representing almost 35 percent of tariff lines (Frequency Index) and almost 70 percent of world trade (coverage ratio). Across product categories, over 80 percent of agricultural products traded in the world are subject to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in importing countries. 

Remark: SPS stands for sanitary and phytosanitary measures and TBT for technical barriers to Trade. 

Findings from the International Trade Centre NTM business surveys series, conducted on more than 20 countries, reveal that more than 25 percent of reported problems correspond to measures applied by the home country of the exporting company.