The World Trade Organisation (WTO) on April 23 reported that around eighty countries and customs territories have banned the export of protective gear, including face masks, gloves, and other goods to prevent shortages amid coronavirus outbreak. The WTO said that new export prohibitions and restrictions mostly covered medical supplies such as face masks, pharmaceuticals, ventilators, and other medical equipment.
The report, which is based on information from official sources and news outlets, draws attention to the current lack of transparency at the multilateral level and long-term risks that export restrictions pose to global supply chains and public welfare. WTO said, "only 13 WTO members (or 39 if European Union member states are counted individually) have submitted information on these new measures in line with WTO rules for quantitative restrictions. Three of them have notified export restrictions on foodstuffs pursuant to the WTO Agriculture Agreement."
Out of the eighty countries that have introduced new export restrictions keeping in mind the coronavirus outbreak, 46 are WTO members (72 if EU member states are counted individually) and eight are non-WTO members. The global trade body said that most of these have been described as temporary measures and at least two members have already removed some of those restrictions.
According to the WTO report, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has urged members to exercise maximal restraint in the use of export restrictions and other measures that could disrupt supply chains. He has also called on WTO members to improve transparency on any new trade-related measures introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. WTO also suggested possible actions to improve transparency in the future, which includes notifying as soon as possible about any new export restriction to the WTO pursuant to the QR Decision and in case these restrictions affect foodstuffs, Committee on Agriculture must be notified.
(Image Credit: AP)