18 June 2007

WTO publishes “World Tariff Profiles” with UNCTAD and ITC

Up to now, access to tariff data had been cumbersome and limited to trade specialists. This has changed with the publication by the WTO, UNCTAD1 and ITC2 of “World Tariff Profiles,” which provides detailed data on bound and applied tariffs of the 150 WTO Members.

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Numbers play a fundamental role in key areas of trade negotiations. They are the alpha and the omega of any tariff-reduction agreement. Perhaps more than in any previous multilateral round of trade negotiations, “tariffs” and “formulas” are at the core of the Doha negotiations.

Up to now, access to these data was cumbersome and limited to a closed circle of trade specialists in spite of the many ways in which this information can often be obtained and viewed in electronic form. It therefore appeared worthwhile and even essential to prepare a comprehensive reference publication that presents the vast amount of information in a comparable and synthetic format. The present publication provides a comprehensive picture of tariff profiles from around the world in an abridged format.

The reader will find in a single and comprehensive document the main tariff parameters for each of the 150 WTO Members. The standardized presentation lends itself to easy analyses and comparisons between countries, between sectors and between bound and applied duties for WTO Members. A special effort was made also to include other countries and customs territories, to include ad valorem equivalents, and to ensure international comparability of the indicators. The publication is presented in three main parts:

The first part shows summary tables for all WTO Members and other countries and customs territories for all products, as well as broken down by agricultural products and non-agricultural products. It is designed to allow a cross-country comparison as well as a comparison of the levels of bound and applied duties. Apart from the standard indicators like tariff averages, maxima, percentage of duty-free tariff lines, peaks and non-ad valorem duties, it also contains indicators of tariff dispersion such as the number of distinct duties and the coefficient of variation.

The second part contains country pages covering the domestic market access protection and the protection faced in the six major export markets. Information on bound and applied duties is presented by duty ranges and by sectors. In addition, there are indicators on the occurrence of special safeguards and on tariff quotas. Detailed information on bound and applied duties and imports is shown for ten agricultural and twelve non-agricultural sectors. Trade diversification and market access conditions in the major export markets are depicted on a bilateral basis. Taking into account preferential schemes as available in any of the three organizations’ databases, trade weighted preferential margins are also estimated.

The third part contains the data sources and two articles that discuss in more detail issues related to the calculation of ad valorem equivalents and to different aggregation methods for tariff averages. A glossary, which briefly explains some of the most commonly used terms, concludes the publication.

Given the vast amount of statistical data and metadata that needed to be processed, and because this information is not available in one single organization, this publication was only possible as a joint effort of the WTO, UNCTAD and ITC. Each of the three organizations has a proven track record in tariff analysis and comparative strengths in this field. The WTO, as the repository of its Members' binding commitments on goods and also as repository for Members' notifications on their MFN applied tariffs, is of course at the core of the undertaking. UNCTAD and ITC provided missing and/or more up-to-date MFN applied tariffs, they also provided much of the missing tariff information on preferential duties, which is not the subject of a WTO notification requirement. Last but not least, a special effort has been made by ITC to convert nearly all non-ad valorem duties into ad valorem equivalents following a jointly agreed methodology.

This joint publication appears at a decisive moment in the multilateral trade negotiations and it responds to the needs of a large audience of specialists and non-specialists alike. It contains a vast amount of information that is essential for understanding what is at stake in the current round of negotiations in the field of market access.


1. UNCTAD: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development back to text
2. ITC: International Trade Centre back to text

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World Tariff Profiles
A joint WTO / UNCTAD / ITC publication

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