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G20 economies fail Free Trade test

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The release of the World Trade Organisation’s mid-year Trade Policy Review confirms the international trading environment has never been tougher, says the Australian Industry Group.

Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox says an “anti-competitive surge in trade” has come at a time when the WTO has never been weaker.

“The report shows that in the six months to May this year new import-restricting trade measures have increased by US$339.5 billion, adding to the record US$588.3 billion reported in the previous six months.

“What is most disappointing is that the overwhelming share of these new restrictive trade measures have been implemented by G20 economies who have clearly failed the free trade test.

“This is despite the fact that G20 Leaders’ released a statement in Osaka in June including the desire to ‘realise a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open.’”

Seven of Australia’s top trade partners are G20 members.

No alternative avenues for exports

Mr Willox says while one in five jobs in Australia rely on trade, about half of Australia’s exporters only have three or less export transactions a year.

“This means that many companies, particularly smaller companies, don’t have the scale or resources to find alternative avenues for their exports and either pay additional taxes or stop exporting altogether,” he said.

“This anti-competitive surge in new trade barriers unfortunately comes at a time when arguably the WTO has never been weaker. Two of the WTO’s dispute settlement body’s three remaining judges are due for retirement with new appointments routinely blocked by the United States.”

Mr Willox says a balanced and effective Dispute Settlement System is necessary to enforce WTO rules and guarantee an orderly resolution of trade conflicts.

Ai Group joined with the national industry associations of 15 other countries in June to advocate for a way out of this quagmire.”

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