World Trade Organization (WTO) members showed restraint in the imposition of new trade-restrictive measures related to Covid-19 and continued to roll back restrictions adopted earlier in the pandemic, according to the organisation’s annual overview report on trade-related developments.
Despite a slowdown in new restrictions unrelated to the pandemic, the stockpile of unrepealed restrictive measures that has accumulated since the monitoring exercise started in 2009 now affects traded merchandise worth an estimated US$ 1.5 trillion, or nearly 9% of world imports, says director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The report, which covers the period between mid-October 2020 and mid-October 2021, was presented to WTO members yesterday.
Okonjo-Iweala noted that since the outbreak of the pandemic, the number of Covid-related trade facilitating measures had outnumbered trade-restrictive ones by nearly two to one.
She noted that of the 117 export restrictions, WTO members and observers had introduced, 45 export restrictions remained in place, covering products such as medicines, other medical supplies and personal protective equipment.
"I urge members to roll back these restrictions as soon as possible as they may be hampering the Covid-19 response, including vaccine production and deployment," she said.
"The monitoring report makes clear that the multilateral trading system has been, and continues to be, an important factor in our response to the pandemic.
"But we also know that trade and the WTO can and must do more to foster production of, and equitable access to, sufficient quantities of Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. This is why I have urged members to reach an agreement on pandemic response, including intellectual property issues, by the end of February."
The report notes that since the outbreak of the pandemic, 399 Covid-19 trade and trade-related measures in goods have been implemented by WTO members and observers.
Of these, 262 (66%) were of a trade-facilitating nature and 137 (34%) could be considered trade restrictive.
Export restrictions accounted for 85% of all restrictive measures recorded – 117 measures in total – of which 59% had been repealed by mid-October 2021.