The World Trade Report 2012 released by the Director General of the WTO recently indicates the rise in the use of non-tariff measures (NTMs) especially TBT and SPS measures as compared to the traditional tariff measures.
The two graphics below indicate the extent of NTMs used by countries:
Whether the measures were legitimate policy measures not unnecessarily creating a barrier to trade or where in effect protectionist depends on the nature and circumstance of each measure. The sense of balance required in the use of these measures was highlighted by the Director General of the WTO here:
“A clear trend has emerged in which NTMs are less about shielding producers from import competition and more about the attainment of a broad range of public policy objectives. The new NTMs, typically SPS and TBT measures but also domestic regulation in services, address concerns over health, safety, environmental quality and other social imperatives. The challenge is to manage a wider set of policy preferences without undermining those preferences or allowing them to become competitiveness concerns that unnecessarily frustrate trade.”
Would the use of NTMs in the coming years be more a protectionist tool or the exercise of legitimate policy objective in a non-discriminatory manner?