Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen. I am pleased to join you today to take stock of recent trade policy developments.

Thank you, Ambassador VILLALOBOS (Mexico) for your introductory remarks.

You mentioned MC12 and its success. One common thread running through the issues addressed there was the critical role of transparency — for markets in food and health products, and about subsidies that impact fisheries.

Transparency is critical for the individuals and companies that make the global economy work. That's why Members have placed transparency at the heart of the multilateral trading system — and of this monitoring exercise, which provides you a fact-based platform for analysis and non-legal peer review.

You all will have seen the Report which was circulated to Members on 13 July. Ambassador VILLALOBOS already touched upon some key findings from the Report. Allow me to briefly present to you my take-aways from it and to bring you up to date on a few issues we are keeping a close watch on where things have evolved since the end of the review period covered by the report, namely the middle of October last year to mid-May this year.

Overall, the Report shows that Members have shown restraint in the use of trade-restrictions. The trade coverage of the import-facilitating measures far exceeds that of import-restrictive measures. This is positive and it shows that Members understand the importance of keeping markets open and letting trade flow. At the same time, we should clearly not underestimate the risks generated by the pandemic, which is still very much with us, along with the more recent disruptions associated with the war in Ukraine, and I should add new diseases like monkey pox showing up which we hope do not also morph into pandemics.

The global food security situation is a case in point, and we are keeping a watchful eye on this. High prices for food and fertilizer have been met with export restrictions, even if we know from experience that such measures can make price spikes much worse. The Secretariat's ongoing monitoring shows that since the start of the war in late February, 30 Members and Observers have introduced 55 measures prohibiting or restricting exports of food, feed, and fertilizers. 15 of these measures have since been phased out, which is really very nice, but 25 Members and Observers still have 40 measures in place. According to the Secretariat's preliminary estimates and based on the available information as of mid-May, the trade coverage of these conflict-related export restrictive measures was estimated at  USD 70 billion — roughly double that of conflict-related import facilitating measures.

Of course, these numbers change daily. Recent developments provide some hope that previously trapped agricultural commodities might start reaching global markets. We all welcome the agreement that will open up a corridor for Ukrainian grain. We will continue to monitor this situation with the cooperation of Members as we prepare the end-of-year Trade Monitoring Report.  

With respect to the pandemic, the Report shows that trade has been central to combatting COVID-19, and that the multilateral trading system has played an instrumental role in encouraging restraint in the use of trade restrictions in response to pandemic-related shocks. Of the 436 trade and trade-related measures introduced on goods since the start of the pandemic, two-thirds were of a trade-facilitating nature, while one-third were trade-restrictive. Export restrictions accounted for 82% of all COVID-19 trade-restrictive measures, but nearly three-quarters of them have already been phased out. The estimated trade coverage of pandemic-related trade-facilitating measures still in place (about USD 150 billion) now exceeds that of trade restrictions (USD 100 billion) by a nearly 50% margin. The number of new COVID-19-related measures on goods as well as in services has decreased significantly during the review period and this is clearly positive. But, and I think we all know this far too well, we are not in the clear yet — and where Members need to show restraint, as reaffirmed at MC12, the Secretariat needs to continue to monitor.

Another challenge that has emerged even as the number of pandemic-related trade restrictions has waned relates to what is happening in the area of global supply chains. Open trade and global value chains have historically fostered increased competition, specialization, and scale. But over the past two years, the pandemic has upended supply chains — factory closures and transport restrictions constrained the supply side, while consumers pivoted from services to durable goods, even as fiscal and monetary stimulus boosted aggregate demand.

These helped fuel mounting inflation, which has reached an average of 7.1% in developed countries and 13.8% in developing countries, reflecting the much higher share of food in the consumption basket of the latter. Let me say that this issue of inflation and the various disruptions we face have led the IMF yesterday downgrade  their forecast for the world economy. For 2022 they have downgraded it from 3.6 in April to 3.2 now, and 2.9% next year, with most of the risks on the downside. So this will present a very, very challenging environment for us, operating while inflation is still very high. So we are going to have to keep the same view as we look at what we ourselves are doing with respect to trade measures.

A third challenge which merits our attention, albeit one which does not capture immediate headlines like supply chain disruptions or inflation, relates to the stockpile of import restrictions which has grown steadily since the Trade Monitoring exercise began in 2009. By mid-May 2022, 9% global imports continued to be affected by import restrictions implemented since 2009 and still in force. This lack of rollback is detrimental to the efficient functioning of global commerce, and we need to gain a better understanding of what can be done to reduce this stockpile. I hope we can really do that.

These are issues and developments that we need to keep monitoring because of their impact on the overall state of the global trading environment. And we will do so as we prepare to engage Members in the preparation of the end-of-year Trade Monitoring Report.

So, to sum up, this WTO Trade Monitoring Report reflects the multiple challenges faced by the world economy since October last year and it offers insights into the sorts of issues which might require further examination as we move forward. I urge you to also have a look at the 4-page Fact Sheet on the Report that the Secretariat has prepared and posted on the website, and which gives you a quick overview of the main findings of the Report.

Let me make one final point. As the only cross-cutting and multilateral transparency exercise in the WTO, the Trade Monitoring Exercise is only as strong as Members want it to be. In other words, your participation is crucial.  That is why we are so thankful that so many members have participated in this important work and are here today.  urge all delegations to join in and help us in strengthening this transparency exercise.

I look forward to hearing about your exchanges on this Report. Unfortunately, I have to go to another appointment, this is Aid for Trade, but  DDG Paugam will be here and it will brief me on about your interventions and where we need to go.

Thank you so much.



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