G20 Leaders Gathered at Buenos Aires, Argentine - Photo by G20 Secretariat

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Trade coverage on imports among Group of 20 (G-20) countries -including tariffs, import bans, and new customs procedures -topped US$336 billion between October and May, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 21st Monitoring Report on G20 trade measures issued Monday (06/24).

The organization warned that a spike in trade restrictions by major nations is threatening to hold back the global economy. That’s the second-highest reading, after the prior period’s record $481 billion. The figure doesn’t include the actions under consideration or threatened by governments.

The finding “provides further evidence that the turbulence generated by current trade tensions is continuing, with trade flows being hit by new trade restrictions on a historically high level. This will have consequences in increased uncertainty, lower investment and weaker trade growth,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in the report.

The WTO report covers new trade and trade-related measures implemented by G20 economies between October 16, 2018, and May 15, 2019.

During this period trade tensions continued to dominate the headlines and added to the uncertainty surrounding international trade and the world economy, said the WTO in the report issued ahead of the G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka on June 28 and 29.

Escalating tariffs have fueled concerns that the months-long trade war between the United States (US) and China could undermine a pickup in the global economy. The International Monetary Fund has cut its 2019 global outlook to the slowest pace since the financial crisis, citing trade tensions as a risk to growth. Much could depend on whether President Donald Trump can de-escalate tensions during a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the G-20 meeting this week in Japan.

“The stable trend that we saw for almost a decade since the financial crisis has been replaced with a steep increase in the size and scale of trade-restrictive measures over the last year,” the report says.

The heightened tensions have thrown global goods exchange into turmoil as companies struggle to adjust their supply chains, stockpile items ahead of new sanctions, and rethink expansion plans. The uncertainty has hit the US economy, with the manufacturing and trade-reliant sectors weakening.

“Several significant trade-restrictive measures which fall outside of the review period remain under consultation for potential later implementation. This further compounds the challenges faced by governments, businesses, and consumers in the current global economic environment,” the WTO report noted.

The WTO said the periods mentioned in the report represent a dramatic spike in the trade coverage of import-restrictive measures and they led Azevedo to call on G20 economies to work together urgently to ease trade tensions.

“These findings should be of serious concern for the whole international community. We urgently need to see leadership from the G20 to ease trade tensions and follow through on their commitment to trade and to the rules-based international trading system,” said Azevedo.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com

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