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BRIEFJune 4, 2024

Government Subsidies and Trade

Loading grain into holds of sea cargo vessel through an automatic line in seaport from silos of grain storage.

(c) Elena Larina / Shutterstock

Governments around the world are increasingly deploying subsidies in pursuit of aims such as securing supplies of vital materials and components, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or promoting advanced technology. Some of these programs, intentionally or not, can distort trade and confer an advantage on domestic producers over foreign competitors. The World Bank, in partnership with other international organizations, is collecting data and conducting analysis of the extent, types, and objectives of government subsidies as well as their effects on trade. The purpose is to advance international dialogue on how the global, rules-based trading system can best respond.


Unfair Advantage: Distortive Subsidies and Their Effects on Global Trade. World Bank. 2023

This study builds an inventory of subsidy measures across major trading partners collected in a uniform way, lays the groundwork for a new analytical framework to estimate the trade-distortive effects of subsidies across countries and sectors, and assesses the international regulatory environment on the use of subsidies, identifying important gaps.
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Accompanying data for Unfair Advantage
This dataset summarizes subsidies identified for World Bank (2023). Coverage includes 31 jurisdictions (spanning 50+ countries including EU members) that  account for over 70 percent of global goods trade. The data track subsidy programs in place in 2018, identifying the type of subsidy, stated objective, and industrial classification, among other variables.
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Green Subsidies Database
This database identifies subsidy measures with environmental objectives, such as preserving natural resources or encouraging the use of cleaner sources of energy. 
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Subsidies, Trade, and International Cooperation

Joint report prepared by the staff of the IMF, OECD, World Bank, and WTO. 2022.Amid tensions over the use of subsidies and their possible trade and economic effects across trading partners, this paper aims to lay out a common background on the subject to spur discussions and calls for multilateral action and cooperation while identifying some priority areas for reform.
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Subsidy Platform

The Subsidy Platform is a joint effort by the staffs of the IMF, OECD, World Bank Group, and WTO. Its purpose is to increase transparency on the use of subsidies across economies and sectors and to serve as a one-stop shop for information and analysis on subsidies maintained by these organizations.
🖥️ Visit the website



To tackle climate change, governments increasingly turn to green subsidies
This blog describes a new data set showing that government subsidies for green technologies, including electric vehicles and solar panels, are on the rise. China, the US, Australia, Canada, and the EU are leading the way.

Global trade tensions fueled by rising government subsidies risk undermining efforts to fight poverty
This blog argues that developing countries are most vulnerable to the trade-distorting effects of subsidies because they rely on trade to drive economic growth, reduce poverty, diversify their economies, and respond to climate change.

How government subsidies distort trade
These charts show that while most subsidies are not directly related to trade, their effects on trade can be more distortive than tariff barriers. The world’s biggest economies—China, the European Union, and the United States—account for about 75 percent of documented programs, which focus heavily on industry.