WTO report says 80 countries limit exports of masks and other goods

 – Eighty countries and customs territories have banned or limited the export of face masks, protective equipment, gloves and other products to mitigate the shortage since the coronavirus outbreak began, the World Trade Organization reported Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks use a smartphone on a street amid concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Kiev, Ukraine, March 17, 2020. REUTERS / Valentyn Ogirenko

He said the bans were imposed by 72 WTO members and eight non-WTO countries, but only 13 WTO members had notified the world trade body as required by its regulations.

Lack of transparency about restrictions and lack of international cooperation could undermine efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease, which has infected 2.64 million people worldwide and killed 184,910, the WTO said. .

“While the introduction of export restrictive measures is understandable, the lack of international cooperation in these areas can put countries dependent on urgently needed imports of medical products at risk and trigger a supply shock,” he said. the WTO report. “And by interfering with established medical supply chains, such measures also risk hampering the urgently required supply response.”

Export prohibitions and restrictions are generally prohibited in the WTO, although there are exceptions that allow temporary measures to “prevent or alleviate the critical shortage of food or other essential products for the exporting contracting party.”

Travel restrictions had already slowed the flow of goods needed to combat the pandemic, but export restrictions made it difficult for governments and companies to adjust purchasing decisions and find new suppliers, according to the report.

Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies last month said any emergency measure taken in response to the pandemic should be “specific, proportionate, transparent and temporary”, but since then new export restrictions have emerged.

Last week, the United States asked China to review the new export quality control rules for protective equipment after complaints that the rules were withholding supplies.

Reuters reported on Thursday that France had expanded its list of drugs facing export restrictions despite repeated calls by the European Union to lift restrictions that could cause shortages in other countries.

The WTO said the restrictions could lead others to follow suit and further reduce available supplies.

“The long-term effects could be significant,” the report said, warning that overly broad measures that were kept in place could irreparably alter supply chains and additional tariff and non-tariff barriers could emerge in reaction.

The political consequences of the restrictions could weaken the global response to the pandemic, raise the possibility of recurring outbreaks that could affect everyone and cause delays in getting products where they were needed.

 

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