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Key Statistics and Trends in Trade Policy 2023


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Key Statistics and Trends in Trade Policy 2023

Key Statistics and Trends in Trade Policy 2023

27th March 2024


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  • Key Statistics and Trends in Trade Policy 2023
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With the notable exception of the increase in bilateral tariffs between the United States of America and China, tariffs applied to imports have been largely constant declining during the last few years, with tariff protection remaining a significant factor in some sectors and markets. 

As of 2022, trade costs directly related to tariffs remained stable at about 2 per cent for developed countries and about 4 per cent for developing countries. Tariff restrictiveness remains substantial in many developing countries, especially in South Asian and African countries. Moreover, tariffs remain relatively high in some sectors where tariff peaks are present, including some of key interest to low-income countries such as agriculture, apparel, textiles, and leather products. Tariffs also remain substantial for most South–South trade.


During the last few years the process of deeper economic integration has remained strong at the regional and bilateral levels, with an increasing number of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) being negotiated and implemented. 

Most of the recent PTAs address not only goods but also services and increasingly deal with rules beyond reciprocal tariff concessions to cover a wide range of behind-the-border issues. As of 2022, about half of world trade has occurred between countries sharing a PTA.


International trade is subject to and influenced by a wide array of non-tariff measures. Technical measures and requirements regulate about two-thirds of world trade, while various forms of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) are applied to almost all agricultural products. Border measures contribute substantially to trade costs. 

On average, the compliance costs of such measures are generally higher than tariffs. The World Trade Organization (WTO) remains an important arbiter of trade disputes; however, the past few years have seen a general decrease in the number of trade defense investigations brought to the WTO. 

As of 2022, there is a large number of trade defense measures in force, most of them by developed countries and major emerging economies.

This report is structured in two parts.

  • The first part provides a discussion on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), with the United States as an example.
  • The second part presents and discusses trends in selected trade policy instruments, including illustrative statistics. The second part is divided into four chapters: tariffs, trade agreements, non-tariff measures, and trade defense measures.

Trade trends and statistics are provided at various levels of aggregation, illustrating the use of the trade policy measures across economic sectors and geographic regions.

Report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development


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