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Opinion: “Slight Deceleration” in G20 Trade Restrictions but Continued Vigilance Needed

The latest report by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on G20 trade measures shows a slight deceleration in the application of new trade-restrictive measures by G20 economies, with the average number of such measures applied per month lower than at any time since 2013.According to the thirteenth such WTO report, issued on Jun. 15, G20 economies had applied 119 new trade-restrictive measures since mid-October 2014, an average of 17 new measures per month over the period.A slight decrease in the number of trade remedy investigations by G20 economies has also contributed to this overall figure.But it is not yet clear that this deceleration will continue and the WTO calls on G20 leaders to show continued vigilance and reinforced determination towards eliminating existing trade restrictions.The longer term trend remains one of concern, with the overall stock of trade-restrictive measures introduced by G20 economies since 2008 continuing to rise.Of the 1,360 restrictions recorded by this exercise since 2008, less than one-quarter have been eliminated, leaving the total number of restrictive measures still in place at 1,031. Therefore, despite the G20 pledge to roll back any new protectionist measures, the stock of these measures has risen by over seven percent since the last report.The broader international economic context also supports the need for continuing vigilance and action. According to the WTO’s most recent forecast (14 April 2015), growth in the volume of world merchandise trade should increase from 2.8 percent in 2014 to 3.3% percent 2015 and further to four percent in 2016, but remaining below historical averages.[pullquote]3[/pullquote]The overall response to the 2008 financial crisis has been more muted than expected when compared with previous crises. The multilateral trading system has proved an effective backstop against protectionism.During this period, G20 economies also continued to adopt measures aimed at facilitating trade, both temporary and permanent in nature.These developments confirm that G20 economies overall have shown a degree of restraint in introducing new trade restrictions. However, it is not yet clear that the deceleration in the number of measures introduced will continue in future reporting periods. It is also relevant that the slow pace of removal of previous restrictions means that the overall stock of restrictive measures is continuing to increase.The broader international economic context also supports the need for continuing vigilance and action.Trends in world trade and output have remained mixed since the last monitoring report, as merchandise trade volumes and GDP growth picked up in the second half of 2014 but appear to have slowed in the first quarter of 2015.Economic activity remained uneven across countries as the United States and China slowed in the first quarter, while growth in the Euro area and Japan picked up.Plunging oil prices and strong exchange rate fluctuations, including an appreciation of the U.S. dollar and a depreciation of the Euro contributed uncertainty to the economic outlook.[related_articles]Lower prices for oil and other primary commodities were expected to provide a boost to importing economies, but reduced export revenues weighed heavily on commodity exporters.In light of these developments, our most recent forecast (14 April 2015) predicted a continued moderate expansion of trade in 2015 and 2016, although the pace of recovery was expected to remain below historical averages.In the area of government procurement, work from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), identifying 65 measures implemented since the financial crisis, suggests that discriminatory government procurement policies have become increasingly popular and potentially affect 423 billion dollars of government procurement in the implementing economies.This report shows that G20 economies implemented 48 new general economic support measures during the period under review, with the majority targeting the manufacturing and agricultural sectors through various incentive schemes, often, but not exclusively, in the context of exports.The overall assessment of this thirteenth report on G20 trade measures is that the continuing increase in the stock of new trade-restrictive measures recorded since 2008 remains of concern in the context of an uncertain global economic outlook.Individually and collectively, the G20 must show leadership and deliver on the pledge to refrain from implementing new measures taken for protectionist purposes and to remove existing ones. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)Edited by Phil Harris   The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS - Inter Press Service. 

Opinion: G7 Makes Commitment on Climate … to Climate Chaos

One of the promises made by the leaders of the world's seven richest nations when they met at Schloss Elmau in Germany earlier this week was an energy transition over the next decades, aiming to gradually phase out fossil fuel emissions this century to avoid the worst of climate change.

Climate Change: Some Companies Reject ‘Business as Usual’

When it comes to climate change, business as usual is simply “not an option”.

New Anti-Terrorism Law Batters Cameroonians Seeking Secession

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Opinion: Two Winners and One Loser at the Summit of the Americas

U.S. President Barack Obama has earned a place in history for taking the first steps towards rectifying a policy that has lasted over half a century without ever achieving its primary goal of ending the Castro regime in Cuba.

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A “Year of Eye-Catching Steps Forward” for Renewable Energy

Driven by solar and wind, world investments in renewable energy reversed a two-year dip last year, brushing aside the challenge from sharply lower oil prices and registering a 17 percent leap over the previous year to stand at 270 billion dollars.

Middle Income Nations Home to Half the World’s Hungry

Nearly half of the world’s hungry, amounting to about 363 million people, live in some of the rising middle income countries, including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Anger Seethes in Gabon after Wood Company Sacks Protesting Workers

There is rising anger among trade unionists, environmentalists and civil society groups in Gabon after a wood company, Rain Forest Management (RFM), sacked 38 fixed-term workers last month in Mbomao, Ogooué-Ivindo province.

Safeguarding Africa’s Wetlands a Daunting Task

African wetlands are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the continent, covering more than 131 million hectares, according to the Senegalese-based Wetlands International Africa (WIA).

Opinion: The Middle East and Perpetual War

There is a currently popular idea in Washington, D.C. that the United States ought to be doing more to quash the recently born Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), because if we don’t, they will send terrorists to plague our lives.

OPINION: The Sad Future of Our Planet

It is now official: the current inter-governmental system is not able to act in the interest of humankind.

Why Are G20 Governments Subsidising Dangerous Climate Change?

Just a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave its starkest warning yet that the vast majority of existing oil, gas and coal reserves need to be kept in the ground, a new report reveals that governments are flagrantly ignoring these warnings and continuing to subsidise exploration for fossil fuels.

Europe’s Two-Time Turnabout on Syria/Iraq

Is this one of those rare occasions where policy-makers self-critically correct a gigantic blunder? Or is it a cold turnabout guided by pure self-interest?

Will Climate Change Denialism Help the Russian Economy?

The recent call from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for “tightening belts” has convinced even optimists that something is deeply wrong with the Russian economy.

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