COVID-19 AND WORLD TRADE

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Following up on the revised note issued on 22 December, the Secretariat's latest update includes 2020 trade statistics for medical goods from around 100 economies as well as comparisons with 2019 trade statistics.

The report also includes a special case study on diagnostic reagents and test kits, two critical products for monitoring the prevalence of the virus and which constitute a crucial barometer for governments to determine policies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trade in medical goods continued to register phenomenal growth of 16.3 per cent in 2020 compared to the 4.7 per cent growth of the same sector in 2019.

Medicines remained the largest category by trade value, with more than 50 per cent of the total share of medical goods both in 2019 and in 2020. The highest share increase was for personal protective products, which accounted for only 13.7 per cent in 2019 but increased to 17.4 per cent in 2020.

The updated note can be found here.

Key points:

  • Imports and exports of medical goods were valued at US$ 2,343 billion in 2020. This represents growth of 16 per cent compared to the previous year. In contrast, the total value of world merchandise trade contracted by 7.6 per cent in 2020.
  • Trade in test kits and diagnostic reagents increased sharply in March 2020 when COVID-19 became a global pandemic. In December 2020, the monthly year-on-year increase reached 90 per cent for exports and 126 per cent for imports. Singapore and Lithuania are among the top ten exporters of these products.
  • The share of medical goods in world trade grew from 5.3 per cent in 2019 to 6.6 per cent in 2020.
  • Global trade in goods critical for fighting the pandemic, such as face masks, ventilators, sterilizers and ultrasonic scanners, grew by 31 per cent in 2020.
  • China became the largest exporter of COVID-19-critical medical products in 2020. It exported products with a value of US$ 105 billion, about 2.8 times its exports in 2019. Malaysia, which was among the top 10 exporters in 2020, registered a 52 per cent year-on-year increase.
  • The world’s top 10 exporting economies supplied about three-quarters of world trade of COVID-19-critical products, while the top 10 importers accounted for 62 per cent of world imports.
  • Diagnostic reagents and test kits account for around 10 per cent of per capita import expenses on COVID-19-critical goods in the economies with the highest incidences of COVID-19.

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