The World Bank’s World Trade Indicators (WTI) are a relatively new, but very powerful, way of describing global trade policies and regulations. Their simplified metrics help to reveal the ‘big picture’ that emerges from a blizzard of trade and tariff data collected by the UN and WTO. Their method is theoretically sound but—as always—has limits and perspectives that need some interpretive care.
The latest (2008) results show world trade barriers continuing to fall rapidly through 2007
Over the last decade, countries have improved many aspects of policy relevant for trade. Worldwide, Most Favored Nation (MFN) average tariffs have fallen from 14.1 percent during 1995–99 to 11.7 percent during 2000-04 and further to 9.4 percent in 2007—a decline of more than 33 percent. In addition, a substantial amount of trade is conducted at a zero MFN tariff rate (MFN-0) or through preferential trade agreements… The most recent estimates indicate that all regions and income groups have witnessed substantial real growth in trade during this time. In 2007, average real growth in trade, 7.7 percent for the world as a whole, is within the 7–9 percent growth range of the last decade.
But one result that surprises is the very high level of revealed non-tariff protection of Australian agriculture.