The closed trade policies that many countries have designed to curb the new coronavirus pandemic could worsen the crisis if caution is not exercised, said the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ).
To date, at least 80 countries and separate customs territories, including 46 members of the WTO, have introduced export prohibitions or restrictions following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some governments have adopted measures to facilitate imports of medical products, such as reducing import duties, limiting customs clearance processes and streamlining licensing and approval requirements.
“Similar attention should be paid to the facilitation of exports of key items such as medicines, protective equipment and ventilators,” said in part a joint statement from the IMF and the WTO.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo have made a joint appeal to governments to refrain from imposing export and other trade restrictions on essential medical and food supplies and to quickly lift those put in place since the beginning of the year.
While world trade rules allow temporary export restrictions to prevent or alleviate critical shortages, “we urge governments to exercise caution when implementing such measures under the current circumstances”.
“What makes sense in an isolated emergency can be seriously detrimental in a global crisis,” they warned.
The two leaders said such measures disrupted supply chains, depressed production and misdirected scarce and critical products and workers far from where they were most needed.
“The result is to prolong and worsen the health and economic crisis – with the most serious effects likely on the poorest and most vulnerable countries,” they noted.
Georgieva and Azevêdo also expressed concern about the decline in the supply of trade finance, which ensures that imports of food and essential medical equipment reach the economies where they are most needed.
In addition, despite a solid supply, restrictions on the export of certain food products are beginning to appear.
“The experience of the global financial crisis has shown that restrictions on the export of food products are increasing rapidly from one country to another and are causing increasing uncertainty and price increases,” they noted. .