COVID-19 AND WORLD TRADE

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Mainly affecting trade in medical products and food, such standards and regulatory measures typically account for two-thirds of the notifications members submit to the WTO in line with obligations under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). These agreements set out disciplines for standards and regulatory measures used to protect human, animal and plant life and health, the environment, and product safety.

The paper notes that most of the COVID-related notifications were submitted under the emergency/urgent notification provisions in the two agreements in response to the pressing health problems posed by the pandemic.

The notifications mainly concern trade in personal protective equipment, food, live animals, medical equipment and medicines. The notified measures fall under four main categories: streamlining certification procedures; ensuring safe medical goods; making food available by relaxing technical regulations; and addressing COVID-19 risks from international trade in live animals.

An online platform — ePing — allows public and private stakeholders to quickly access the notifications so that they can adjust to the evolving market requirements for the products covered by the new measures.

Key points

  • Around two-thirds of notifications by WTO members in response to COVID-19 are related to standards and regulations (i.e. technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures). These were notified by 27 members.
  • The standards, regulations and related measures notified by WTO members mainly affect trade in personal protective equipment, food, live animals and medical equipment.
  • The notified measures fall into four broad categories: streamlining certification procedures; ensuring that medical goods are safe; making food available by relaxing technical regulations; and addressing COVID-19 risks from international trade in live animals.

The full report is available here.

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