More than 100 new trade restrictions imposed during the year to mid-October affected goods and services worth an estimated $747-billion, the highest level for a 12-month period since 2012, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said on Thursday.
New measures including tariffs, quantitative restrictions, stricter customs procedures, import taxes and export duties were up 27% from the previous annual period, fuelling uncertainty in international trade and the global economy, it said.
"Historically high levels of trade-restrictive measures are hurting growth, job creation and purchasing power around the world," WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in an annual report, which said its members implemented 102 new restrictions.
China and the United States have been locked in a trade war for 17 months and officials said on Thursday the world's two biggest economies were in close communication, days before tit-for-tat tariffs are due to come into force.
On October 1, the WTO downgraded its forecast for world trade growth this year to 1.2% from a forecast of 2.6% in April.
Cumulative import restrictions introduced over the past decade and still in force are estimated to affect trade worth $1.7-trillion – or 7.5% pct of world imports, the WTO said.
Sectors hardest hit by new import restrictions were mineral and fuel oils, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and precious metals, the WTO said.
WTO members also implemented 120 new measures aimed at facilitating trade in the year to mid-October, covering goods and services worth $545-billion, the second highest level since 2012, the Geneva-based organisation said.