Protectionism surges stealthily: report
Over the past year, protectionism has become "the thief in the night," with the European Union the worst culprit, a report showed
The report showed that initial counts of protectionism imposed in the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of 2013 were the worst since the beginning of the financial crisis.
In the year between June 2012 and May 2013, 431 new protectionist measures were imposed and 183 were in the pipeline, compared with just 141 measures to liberalize commerce, the Global Trade Alert (GTA), an independent watchdog, said in its 12th report released in the run-up to the G8 summit taking place next week in the UK.
Countries in the G8 Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the US and the UK were responsible for 30% of protectionist measures taken over the past 12 month; if the rest of the G20 are included, they are responsible for 65% of all protectionist measures since June 2012, the report showed.
"Public spats like the recent Sino-EU trade dispute are the exception. Most recent protectionism has been by stealth and is no less serious for that," Simon Evenett, professor of economics at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and coordinator of the Global Trade Alert, said in a statement.
"The past 12 months have seen a quiet, wide-ranging assault on the level-playing field," Evenett said.
"Governments routinely exploit ways to favour domestic interests without provoking the ire of trading partners. Artful governments have no need to openly flout WTO rulesthey used the wiggle room in existing rules and, if that wasnt enough, employed policies not well tamed by trade rules."
The worst offender in terms of number of discriminatory measures imposed is the European Union, with 372 in the past year.
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The EU is followed by Russia, Argentina, India, Belarus, Germany, the UK, Italy, France and Brazil.
The G8 countries are both perpetrators and victims of protectionism. In the past year, the commercial interests of countries in the G8 have often been hit by others' protectionism, with Russia and Canada being hit 70 times while the US got 146 blows to its commercial interests.
For the first time since monitoring by the GTA begun in June 2009, the number of duties imposed related to dumping, subsidies or safeguards, of 484, exceeded the number of trade-distorting bailouts, at 476.
Evenett called on the G8 to "go beyond making soothing comments about resisting protectionism" and act to remove the 37 measures implemented by G8 governments that harm the least developed countries.
"G8 countries have a massive stake in preserving an open trading system. Each protectionist measure is a termite eating away at one route to economic recovery," he said.
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