Good afternoon from Geneva

Thank you for inviting me to this event. It is a pleasure to be with you, albeit virtually.

Today, I am going to speak about two things: first, recent trends in trade remedy actions by WTO Members; and second, the importance of concluding the fisheries negotiations, which are taking place under the auspices of the Committee on Rules.

Recent trends in trade remedies should be viewed in the broader context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the global economy to a standstill. Across the world, production and consumption scaled back and international trade appeared to be on its way to a persistent decline. However, this past summer, global merchandise trade began to recover, and by the end 2020, it was strongly rebounding in many countries and sectors.

Global trade continued to grow in the first half of 2021, as value chains recovered and demand in advanced economies increased. According to the latest WTO forecast, the volume of global merchandise trade is predicted to grow by 10.8% in 2021, followed by a 4.7% rise in 2022. However, many developing countries are not experiencing this growth, and this trend is deeply concerning.

In response to the challenges and pressures created by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the world used quite a few trade policy instruments. We've seen the application of both tariff and non-tariff measures: some aimed at facilitating trade, and others, such as export restrictions, aimed at limiting it. In an effort to save their economies, some governments have adopted unprecedented state support measures.

During the pandemic, many governments introduced COVID-specific trade measures. But they also continued to use trade remedies widely. In fact, throughout the pandemic, the number of new initiations has been relatively high. In G-20 economies, trade remedy actions accounted for 79% of all non-COVID-19-related trade measures on goods taken between October 2020 and May 2021.

That said, there has been little if any new application of trade remedies regarding critical medical equipment and supplies needed in the pandemic response. In fact, in a couple of cases, measures on certain such products were suspended in direct response to the pandemic.  

Before I get into the data, I should note that COVID-19 has also affected the functioning of government institutions around the globe, including investigating authorities conducting trade remedies. For example, in some jurisdictions, on-the-spot verifications initially were suspended, and investigation deadlines extended. And more recently, many governments have adapted their investigation procedures to make use of remote communication tools in new ways.

Traditionally, anti-dumping measures have been the most frequently used trade remedy policy tool, and we saw an increase in 2020. In particular, in 2020, WTO Members initiated 349 anti-dumping investigations, which represents a 63% increase in the number of initiations compared to 2019.  It's interesting to note that 92 of them were initiated by the same Member. 

As has historically been the case, the majority of these new investigations concerned metal products, such as steel, while chemical products accounted for the second largest share of initiations.

In 2020, 114 anti-dumping measures were imposed, which is about 22% less than in the previous year. Given that it can take up to 18 months for an anti-dumping investigation to be concluded, these measures may not necessarily be the result of initiations in the same period. Furthermore, given the increase in initiations in 2020, it is likely that we will also see an increase in the number of measures imposed in 2021.

That the pandemic has increased the complexity of the trade remedies landscape is illustrated by a recent investigation by one Member that resulted in the formal imposition and simultaneous temporary suspension of anti-dumping measures on certain metal products, due to a temporary change in market conditions. This example shows the difficulties investigating authorities may face in a situation of a sharp global economic decline followed by a quick resurgence.

As regards safeguards measures, in 2020, 22 investigations were initiated, fewer than in the previous year, although about average by historical standards. Similar to anti-dumping, the majority of initiations concerned metal products. Twelve safeguard measures were applied, of which 5 were applied by the same Member.

In 2020, WTO Members initiated 56 countervailing duty investigations, which represents a 56% increase compared to 2019; 24 countervailing duty measures were imposed. Thirty initiations and 13 measures are attributable to one Member.

Our review of G20 trade measures demonstrates that, after peaking early in 2020, initiations of trade remedy investigations by these Members dropped significantly between October 2020 and May 2021. In fact, during this period, G20 Members initiated an average of 15 trade remedy investigations per month, the lowest since 2012. This trend might reflect the post-pandemic economic rebound within much of the G20.

I would now like to say a couple of words about the ongoing WTO negotiations aimed at adopting new multilateral disciplines on harmful fisheries subsidies. In the two decades while these negotiations have been ongoing, we have witnessed a sharp and alarming decrease in global fish stocks, which particularly threatens vulnerable artisanal fishers and damages ocean ecosystems.

We are now closer to an agreement than we have ever been, and in these past couple of weeks, WTO Members have intensified their efforts to bring these negotiations to a close through small-group and informal meetings. Disagreements remain on some important issues, including about the nature and extent of flexibilities for developing Members. But I share the Director-General's optimism that reaching an outcome at the upcoming Ministerial Conference is within reach if Members muster the necessary political will.

This concludes my presentation. I wish you fruitful discussions and a very successful forum. Thank you!




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