G20 trade ministers agree to cut trade costs Trade ministers from the world's major economies have agreed to cut trade costs and increase policy coordination. They met in Shanghai amid a slowing global economy and rising calls for protectionism.

The ministers from G20 nations approved a trade growth strategy aimed at reversing slowing global trade and backed guiding principles for global investment policymaking, China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said on Sunday after a two-day meeting in Shanghai.

The G20 nations, which account for 85 percent of global trade, said in the statement that protectionism has been rising since the financial crisis and that new trade restrictions in the group had reached the highest monthly average since the WTO began monitoring in 2009.

“We note with concern that despite the G20’s repeated pledge, the stock of restrictive measures affecting trade in goods and services has continued to rise,” they said in the statement.

They pledged to oppose trade protectionism and reiterated a promise not to add new protective measures until 2018. They also vowed to cut global trade cost by 15 percent, without giving a due date.

Trade in figures

Global trade is expected to grow 2.8 percent in 2016, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said in April. This year is expected to be the fifth in a row when trade grew at less than 3 percent – its weakest sustained level in 30 years, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said on Friday.

Meanwhile, the World Bank cut its forecast for the global economy this year, predicting it will expand 2.4 percent, down from the 2.9 percent it expected in January.

In June, the WTO urged the G20 economies to dismantle anti-trade measures, 1,583 of which have been erected since 2008, with just 387 removed during that time. New trade barriers are being erected at a record pace, the WTO added.

“The global recovery continues, but it remains uneven and falls short of our ambition for strong, sustainable and balanced growth. Downside risks and vulnerabilities persist,” the trade ministers said in a joint statement.

Disputes to be resolved

Concerns over China’s production overcapacity in steel have led to trade disputes with the European Union and United States.

Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said on Sunday that the G20 economies “have realized the necessity to take global cooperation to handle the challenge caused by production overcapacity.”

jbh/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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