Governments need to avoid measures that can disrupt supply chains and negatively impact the poorest and most vulnerable, said the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a joint statement. Roberto Azevêdo and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, respective heads of WTO and WHO, called on the member states to continue sharing information about the measures with them, in line with the “established transparency mechanisms”.
“Protecting lives is our top priority, and these efforts can be impeded by unnecessary disruptions to global trade and supply chains,” the statement read.
Dr Ghebreyesus and Azevêdo highlighted that governments’ trade policy decisions significantly influence the access to medical equipment and supplies by the countries in dire need. The duo asserted that keeping trade in health technologies as open and predictable as possible is of vital interest, adding it will help countries to respond to this crisis and recover from it.
“WHO and WTO are working together to support efforts to ensure the normal cross-border flow of vital medical supplies and other goods and services,” the chiefs added.
The duo emphasised on the importance of adherence to International Health Regulations (2005) and WTO rules to resolve unnecessary disruptions to global supply chains. According to the joint statement, any measures taken to promote public health that restricts trade should be “targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary”, and consistent with recent calls from world leaders.
“Global action, solidarity and international cooperation are more necessary than ever to address this health situation. WHO and the WTO are working together to play their part,” they concluded.
Meanwhile, the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have urged countries to keep their trade open and allow markets to function, warning that export controls on medical supplies and other essentials could backfire. At a virtual press conference during spring meetings of both institutions, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath asserted that this is not a time to restrict the trade of medical supplies and essential equipment around the world.