In an unprecedented global health crisis, trade is essential to save lives and livelihoods; and international co-operation is needed to keep trade flowing. In the midst of significant uncertainty, there are four things we can do: 1) boost confidence in trade and global markets by improving transparency about trade-related policy actions and intentions; 2) keep supply chains flowing, especially for essentials such as health supplies and food; 3) avoid making things worse, through unnecessary export restrictions and other trade barriers; and 4) even in the midst of the crisis, think beyond the immediate. Government support today needs to be delivered in a way that ensures it serves the public interest, not vested interests, and avoids becoming tomorrow’s market distortions. .
COVID-19 is a humanitarian crisis on a global scale.
Yet notwithstanding these efforts, most major economies now look set to enter recession, and more serious scenarios cannot be discounted.
Against this background, there is a clear need to keep trade flowing, both to ensure the supply of essential products and to send a signal of confidence for the global economy. Trade is essential to save both lives and livelihoods.
But keeping trade flowing requires co-operation and trust – for example, that the market will supply essentials, that countries will not impose export restrictions, and that imports do not pose health risks. This is a particular challenge at a time of trade tensions, where the international trading system was already subject to an increased number of new restrictions and distortions, from tariff increases among major traders, to significant government support in key sectors.