Commentary Type

G-20 Protection in the Wake of the Great Recession

Report to the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation



Since our June 2010 report on G-20 protectionism, the global tone shows little improvement. However the G-20, with its roster of advanced and emerging economies, is uniquely situated to arrest the eruption of protectionist measures, and revive the stalled agenda of the Doha Round. In this report we first describe the continued instances of G-20 protection and the commendable unwinding of some earlier measures. We then turn to policy responses and our recommendations.

Section I updates the extent of “final” and “pipeline” protectionist policies implemented or considered by the G-20 between November 2008 and September 2010. Using tradeweighted averages of three metrics—number of discriminatory measures, number of tariff lines affected, and number of trading partners affected—we illustrate protectionist tendencies during the Great Recession and the ensuing recovery. A comparison between instances of protectionism recorded in our previous report and in this report indicates that protectionist sentiments have not yet abated.

Section II analyzes earlier G-20 protectionist measures that are now expired or unwound. Using data collected by the World Trade Organization, expired and unwound G-20 protectionist measures are assessed to evaluate the extent of “virtue” in each G-20 member country. Virtuous acts are common among G-20 countries, but the number of protectionist measures implemented or considered during the same time period is about three times the number of expired or unwound measures.

Section III summarizes the G-20 outlook for economic growth, unemployment, and fiscal and monetary policies. We report increasingly uneven growth, employment, and fiscal policy difference among the G-20 members.

Section IV summarizes recent exchange rate movements between major currencies. Three important exchange rate events are highlighted: the falling value of the euro as a result of the European sovereign debt crisis; the Chinese announcement, before the G20 Toronto Summit, that the RMB peg to the US dollar will come to an end; and the large and persistent appreciation of the yen.

Section V summarizes recent deterioration in the US trade policy climate, largely as a consequence of outsized trade deficits and continued high unemployment. We highlight the emergence of protectionist themes within the US business community and among respected policy commentators.

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