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UNCTAD releases new reports on developments in trade policy and trends in international merchandise trade


UNCTAD releases new reports on developments in trade policy and trends in international merchandise trade

UNCTAD releases new reports on developments in trade policy and trends in international merchandise trade

The new UNCTAD publication Key Statistics and Trends in Trade Policy seeks to provide a snapshot of recent and medium-term developments.

The report is intended to serve as a regular monitoring exercise that conveys factual information on a wide range of trade policies such as tariffs, preferential margins, non-tariff measures, preferential trade agreements, trade defences measures and exchange rates.

It reviews policies directly or indirectly impacting international trade, with particular attention paid to issues affecting developing countries. Its aim is to inform the broader policy dialogue.

The just-released issue of the report highlights that the process of tariff liberalization has continued largely unabated over the past decade, resulting in around three-quarters of international trade being fully liberalized under most favoured nation or preferential tariff regimes. Nevertheless, tariffs remain relatively high in some key sectors of interest to developing countries and for non-regional South-South trade.

The study further takes note of the growing complexity and fragmentation of the international trading system, largely attributed to the proliferation of bilateral and regional preferential trade agreements. Preferential trade agreements have greatly contributed to liberalizing and facilitating international trade, often extending beyond traditional tariff liberalization by covering “behind-the-border” measures. However, the report also shows how the proliferation of these agreements affects the structure and magnitude of preferential margins as well as the policy space allowed to countries to raise tariffs.

In addition, study analyses the evolution in the use of contingency measures (anti-dumping measures, countervailing duties and safeguards) and describes the important role being played by non-tariff measures such as quotas, licensing, pre-shipment inspections, import and export regulations, standards and technical measures. Finally, the report surveys movements in exchange rates and reviews their role in influencing the external competitiveness of countries.

New UNCTAD publication monitors trends in international merchandise trade

UNCTAD’s new publication entitled Key Trends in International Merchandise Trade provides an overview of recent developments, with a particular focus on developing countries.

The newly launched report, which will appear annually, covers a range of trends and indicators, including statistics on sectoral, regional and South-South trade, on export diversification and sophistication, and on intra-industry trade. Its aim is to present factual information on global trade in a concise and accessible manner, and to provide useful background information for government delegates, policymakers, and others working in the global trade arena.

The publication shows that, notwithstanding the economic crisis, world trade has increased dramatically over the past decade, rising almost threefold since 2002 to reach about $18.5 trillion in 2012. Developing countries have assumed an increasing share in these trade flows, and they now account for almost half of global exports. And yet, data at the regional level reveal that developing countries’ integration into the global economy is characterized by wide variations in performance, with East Asia continuing to dominate these flows of merchandise. Increased demand in developing (especially middle-income) countries, paired with a fragmentation of production processes, has resulted in a rapid increase in South-South trade, the report says.

Trade patterns across different categories of products, and across economic sectors, are also examined in the publication. The last decade has seen an overall increase in the importance of primary products in world trade, prompted by a surge in demand in emerging markets and by a consequent rise in commodity prices. Notably, the energy-related sector is the largest (and fastest-growing) in terms of value of trade. It now accounts for about a fifth of world trade.

The report notes that the dependence of many developing countries on exports of natural resources and other commodities makes them particularly vulnerable to price movements in international markets. Despite these countries’ efforts to diversify, the export basket of many developing – and particularly low-income – countries has remained tied to unprocessed products that have lower technological content and value addition, and therefore limited growth potential.


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