G20 countries put up the trading shutters

Concerns that the current economic situation might be encouraging countries to turn towards protectionism have been highlighted by the European Commission in its latest report on potentially trade-restricting measures.

It identifies what it describes as a staggering increase in such measures in the last 8 months, with 123 new restrictions introduced — a rise of just over 25%.

This brings the total number of restrictive measures in place to 534. The Commission argues that this represents a failure by the G20 countries and called on them to do more to prevent the introduction of new barriers to trade, and to rectify protective measures introduced since the start of the current crisis.

Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: "Let us remind ourselves that the G20 pledged to end such practices and that protectionism benefits no-one. It sends the wrong signal to global trading partners, it sends the wrong signal to investors and it sends the wrong signal to the business community, which relies on a predictable business climate."

Between September 2011 and 1 May 2012, the roll-back of measures slowed down: only 13 measures have been removed, compared to 40 measures between October 2010 and September 2011.

Overall, only about 17% (89) of the measures have been removed or lapsed since October 2008.

Russia deserves close scrutiny, according to the Commissioner, as one of the most frequent users of trade-restrictive measures, especially as these may not conform with its obligations as an upcoming member of the World Trade Organization.

The report covers 31 of the EU's main trading partners, including the G20 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the USA and Vietnam.

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