Working Papers

Protectionism, trade remedies and safeguards: A quick guide for African countries

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16 Sep 2009

Author(s): Willemien Denner

Since 1945 the world economy has experienced high growth rates associated with the liberalisation of goods and services and the increase of capital flows. However, the global financial crisis which started in August 2007 has raised concerns for countries regarding the present and potential losses that can be experienced in employment and income. This rekindled the debate on protectionism and the restriction of foreign imports to protect domestic industries. Since the start of the financial crisis a dramatic increase of trade restrictive measures has taken place. After an initial slowdown in the utilisation of trade remedies, 2008 showed a marked increase in contingent protection measures. It seems certain that this trend will continue through the rest of 2009 and possibly into 2010. This can have a dramatic effect on the development, economic growth, employment and income of developing and least developed countries.

Individual developing and least developed countries and regional configurations in Africa have not played an active role in the utilisation of trade remedies. Developing countries have also been sheltered, to an extent, from the implementation of multilateral trade remedies by special and differential treatment provisions. There has been some activity regarding the regional implementation of trade remedies within certain regional configurations and between African countries. However, many developing and least developed countries do not have the capacity to either implement trade remedies or defend their exports against their implementation, whether on multilateral or bilateral level.

In the current financial climate where the threat of a WTO-compliant protectionist cycle is a real possibility, developing countries need to build capacity to defend their exports against protectionist policies.

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