Evolution of trade under the WTO: handy statistics

Trade Liberalization

  • As of 2019, the world's applied tariffs stood at an average of 9%. This is 19% lower than the average tariff level of 11.1% recorded in 1996, one year into the establishment of the WTO. This further compares to estimates of much higher tariff levels among contracting parties of the GATT shortly after the second world war. One estimate is that the 1947 average tariff rate among industrial countries, before the first post-war tariff reductions, ranged between 20% and 30%(1). Another estimate puts the average tariff among key GATT participants at 22%(2).

Trade Growth(3)

  • World trade volumes today are roughly 40 times the level recorded in the early days of the GATT (3983% growth from 1950 to 2020).
  • World trade values today have ballooned by almost 300 (274) times from 1950 levels.
  • Merchandise volume and value graphs below illustrate trade picking up steeply since the establishment of the WTO in 1995.
  • As of 2020, on average, world merchandise trade volume and value have expanded 3.8% and 5.0% respectively on average since 1995, when the WTO was first established.


  1. World Trade Organization. 2007. World Trade Report: Six Decades of Multilateral Cooperation, What Have we Learnt? Geneva: WTO. p.207 Back to text
  2. Back to text
  3. Trade is calculated as average of exports and imports, and excludes significant re-exports or imports for re-exports Back to text


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