During the last decade international trade has been characterized by a progressive shift in the use of trade policy instruments. Tariffs have remained substantially stable during the last few years with tariff protection remaining a critical factor only in certain sectors in limited number of markets. On the other hand, the use of regulatory measures and other non-tariff measures such as antidumping has become more widespread.
The recent years have also been characterized by movements in the exchange rates. Overall, tariffs have remained substantially stable during the last years. As of 2015, developed countries import restrictiveness is at an average of about 1.2 percent. However, import restrictiveness remained higher in many developing countries, especially in South Asia and Sub-Saharan African Countries. Although low on average, tariffs remain relatively high in some sectors. Moreover, tariff peaks are present in important sectors, including some of key interest to low income countries such as agriculture, apparel, textiles and leather products. Tariffs also remain substantial for most South-South trade.
As of 2015, international trade is increasingly subject to and influenced by a wide array of policies and instruments reaching beyond tariffs. Technical measures and requirements regulate about two-thirds of world trade, while various forms of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) are applied to almost the totality of agricultural trade. The past few years have also seen a general increase in the use of trade defence measures within the WTO framework.
In spite of the effects of the economic crisis, the process of deeper economic integration has remained strong at a regional and bilateral level, with an increasing number of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) being negotiated and implemented. PTAs increasingly address not only goods but also services and increasingly deal with rules beyond reciprocal tariff concessions to cover a wide range of behind the border issues. As of 2015, about half of world trade has occurred under some form of PTAs.
The economic turbulence of recent years has been reflected in exchange rate markets, both for developing and developed countries' currencies. Exchange rate movements are playing an important role in shaping international trade in the last few years as they have influenced countries’ external competitiveness. In particular, 2015 saw the value of the US dollar appreciate against most major currencies.
This report is structured in two parts.
The first part presents an overview of the effects of G20 policies on LDCs exports.
The second part discusses trends in selected trade policy instruments including illustrative statistics. The second part is divided in five chapters: tariffs, trade agreements, non-tariff measures, trade defence measures, exchange rates and trade costs. Trade trends and statistics are provided at various levels of aggregation illustrating the use of the trade policy measures across economic sectors and geographic regions.