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.
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.
WTO Members applied 108 new trade-restrictive measures during the review period from mid-October 2016 to mid-October 2017, including new or increased tariffs, customs procedures, quantitative restrictions and local content measures. This meansan average of nine measures per month compared to fifteen in the previous period.
WTO Members also implemented 128 measures aimed at facilitating trade, including eliminated or reduced tariffs and simplified customs procedures. At about 11 trade-facilitating measures per month, this remains significantly lower than the monthly average of 18 recorded in the previous annual overview report. WTO Members continue to implement more trade-facilitating than trade-restrictive measures, a trend observed over the past four years.
It is noteworthy that the estimated trade coverage of import-facilitating measures (US$169 billion) is more than two times larger than that of import-restricting measures (US$79 billion).
In addition to the regular trade policy reviews of Members on an individual or regional basis, the WTO currently produces two series of trade monitoring 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.
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.