Trade Remedies Unveiled: A Comprehensive Visual Analysis

In an era marked by the intricate complexities of global trade, grasping the subtleties of trade remedy measures becomes not just interesting, but essential for policymakers, businesses, and scholars. The World Trade Organization's trade monitoring database, captures data on these meaures and acts as a window into these evolving dynamics. This post aims to unearth the layers of these trends for last 10 years, bringing into focus the countries at the forefront of these measures during this period, with a special emphasis on India’s position.

Countries facing negative impacts from international trade have two primary defense mechanisms: remedial measures and restrictive measures. Remedial measures include Anti-Dumping Duties (ADD), Countervailing Duties (CVD), and Safeguard Measures (SG). They're effective for ensuring fair competition but require a detailed investigative process, which takes time.

Restrictive measures, in contrast, can be enacted more quickly. These might include tariffs that raise the cost of imported/exported goods or archaic regulations like port restrictions, which can impede trade flow. The choice of measure depends on a country's goals: remedial actions are typically used to address unfair trade practices in a manner that complies with WTO regulations, while restrictive actions can be applied more rapidly to immediately limit imports or exports, and their compliance with WTO standards can vary.

Let's first delve into the remedial measures countries adopt to shield their industries from unfair trade practices. Over the last decade, the cumulative impact of these protective trade remedies has been significant. Given below is a figure summarizing the number of remedial actions taken globally:

Fig 1: Sum of trade remedial measures taken by all countries in last 10 years

Moving on to the restrictive measures, we can see that they come in various types. Below, I dissect the major types of restrictive measures used in the last 10 years, providing the numbers and a brief explanation for each type.

Table 1: Types of non-remedial restrictive measures, the numbers, and explanation

Now, let's track the evolution of these trade measures over time.

Fig 2: Sum of remedial and restrictive measures taken by countries over the years

The graph above indicates a clear shift towards more restrictive trade measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these measures were aimed at controlling the export of crucial healthcare products during COVID. This move towards swift and decisive trade actions also aligns with concerns over food security and the fallout from recent global conflicts. Despite the complexity of their implementation, remedial measures have maintained a consistent presence. However, the increase in restrictive measures from 2020 shows how quickly countries can adjust their policies in response to pressing domestic needs and international crises.

At this point, it's logical to wonder which countries are most responsible for these numbers. The next section presents visuals to shed light on the countries behind these trends.

The bar chart below breaks down the total count of trade remedy cases initiated over the past decade, segmented into anti-dumping duties (ADD), countervailing duties (CVD), and safeguard measures (SGD) across different countries. 
Fig 3: Trade remedial measures in the last decade - country wise

India emerges as the most prolific in employing remedial measures, followed closely by the United States and the European Union. Notably, anti-dumping duties are the predominant tool utilized accounting for a major chunk (78%) of all restrictive measures. When it comes to safeguard measures, India (17 cases), Türkiye (12 cases), and Ukraine (13 cases) have been particularly active in invoking them. The extensive use of CVD by the United States (121 cases), the European Union (22 cases), and Canada (21 cases) underscores their institutional capacity to conduct comprehensive anti-subsidy investigations, reflecting a tactical approach tailored to counteract foreign subsidies.

Yet, focusing solely on the aggregate number of ADD cases by country may conceal the full truth. Notably, countries like the USA and India often pursue ADD against multiple nations simultaneously under one single case. This tactic considerably extends the influence and impact of their measures. The following depiction illustrates the one-on-one ADD imposed by each country or region over the last decade. One may see that while ADD cases filed by USA and India were 178 and 271 respectively, when we take a one-to-one count, it balloons to 433 and 575 respectively:
Fig 4: ADD used - country/region wise when taken one-on-one rather than number of reported cases

The bar chart below showcases the frequency of trade restrictive measures (beyond trade remedies) employed by various countries over the last decade.
Fig 5: Restrictive measures over last decade - country/region wise

In analyzing trade restrictive measures data, a stacked bar representation of the different types of restrictions (as was done in remedial measures case) is not practical due to the diversity of measures. Instead, we may concentrate on the top three countries: India, Argentina, and Türkiye, which stand out for their active use of these measures.

Table 2: Leading countries using restrictive measures - disaggregation

Based on the above, the 'Tariff King' moniker attributed to India by former (and perhaps, future too) President Trump underscores the country's strategic application of tariffs, which is clearly evidenced by the data. With 66 instances of imposing import tariffs in the last decade — the highest among its global peers — India has used tariffs as a tool to shield its emerging industries, maintain economic balance, and to pursue certain industrial policy goals. 

A question naturally emerges from this analysis: which countries find themselves on the receiving end of these measures? To whom are these cases targeted at? Let's start with Anti-Dumping Duties. The plot below shows the number of times the countries faced ADD measures by their trading partners in the last 10 years. Each ADD measure may pertain to multiple items/HS chapters as pointed out above. 

Fig 6: Number of ADD cases suffered - country wise

The plot above shows that China is the clear outlier, targeted by a staggering 546 ADD cases—testament to its expansive and often contentious role in global trade, frequently associated with subsidies that distort market competition. India, while a distant second with 47 instances, and Brazil with 32, are also significant targets but pale in comparison to China’s figures.

What about CVD? Here are the targets:
Fig 7: Number of CVD cases suffered - country wise

The above plot for CVD is not very different from the ADD one earlier. China is the prime target and India is a distant second.

Yet, there's a striking disparity when we scrutinize the number of cases against advanced economies. The USA and EU, while frequently instigators of ADD and CVD measures, rarely face the same level of pushback from developing nations. This discrepancy isn't just a matter of trade volume or market power, or that these countries don't resort to protectionism or subsidy; it signals a deeper strategic maneuvering. Advanced economies are deftly redefining the rules of international trade to align with 21st-century concerns—climate change, sustainability, labor practices—often championed by them. This strategic shift, while under the guise of progressive policy, could be perceived as a sophisticated form of protectionism, subtly reworking the very trade rules they helped establish in the previous century, and which they claim to follow. For developing countries, this is a call to elevate their grasp of the new trade playbook. It's essential to not only build robust negotiating teams and investigative frameworks to respond to these measures but also to discern and navigate the nuanced policy landscape that now includes environmental and social governance factors as pivotal elements of trade competitiveness.

Next, let's expore the common items against which ADD and CVD actions are taken. 

A quick look at items that commonly face ADD is shown in the figure below: 
Fig 8: ADD cases in last 10 years - HS Chapter wise distribution

And the common items that face CVD are shown below: 
Fig 9: CVD cases in last 10 years - HS Chapter wise distribution 

It is noticed from the above plots that Chapter 72, covering Iron and Steel, is a frequent target perhaps due to its vital role in national infrastructure and security, and often subject to dumping due to global overproduction. Chapter 73, encompassing a range of Articles of Iron or Steel, also attracts attention for its wide utility in key industries, making it a common target for protective measures. Additionally, Chapter 29, which deals with Organic Chemicals essential for pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, is commonly involved in trade disputes due to its strategic importance and high research and development costs. A non-protection from unfair international trade in these industries may lead to destruction of manufacturing capability of a nation. In the coming years, we may see more action in chapter 85, which may have several important parts for the Electric Vehicles and components. 

Let's move now to country based analysis focusing on India first. 

The figure below shows the country/region-wise distribution of remedial measures taken against India's exports, based on the number of trade remedy cases (ADD, CVD, SGD) filed in the last 10 years. 
Fig 10: Treemap of remedies cases filed against India - country/region-wise

On can readily see that it's the USA that has filed most of the cases against us. Also you will see countries like Argentina, Mexico and regions like GCC and SACU filing cases against us. 

Coming to India's turn, the distribution of trade remedy cases filed by India against others over the last 10 years is shown below. This is a static image - the interactive version of it can be seen at this Tableau link if one is interested.  Most of our cases are against China and ASEAN - prime region from where we import goods. 

Fig 11: Distribution of cases filed by India - country/region-wise

Overall, the above behaviour of India is not an anamoly. One may say that the target of most such trade remedy cases across the world is China - a habitual rule breaker who has gamed the merchandise trade system. To prove my point, I will end this long blog post with two visuals of distribution of trade remedy cases filed in the last 10 years by the USA and the EU. 
Fig 12: Trade remedy cases filed by the USA over last 10 years - country/region-wise

Fig 13: Trade remedy cases filed by the EU over last 10 years - country/region-wise

Source and code: 

1. Data was downloaded from WTO's trade monitoring database (TMD) as mentioned for the period 01-01-2014 to 01-01-2024 from this link

2. For generating Figures 4, 6, and 9  - the world maps of ADD/CVD cases used and suffered - I have coded the same using Python with Geopandas. The code for the same is kept at GitHub repository at this link. The github repo also contains the excel sheets that I have downloaded from TMD alongwith some of the visuals created in the excel sheets. 

3. Figures 10 to 13 are generated in Tableau Public and the links to the individual figures are given below: