The Committee document on lessons learned (G/MA/409) is the result of the six experience-sharing sessions held since March 2022 where members exchanged information and practices on the measures they implemented on trade in COVID-19 related goods within the mandate of the Committee. At each session, members volunteered to share information and data on their national experiences in relation to a series of topics identified by the Committee.

The topics included:

  • definition and update of essential goods to combat the pandemic
  • classification of COVID-19 essential goods within the Harmonized System (HS) and challenges faced with tariff classification
  • monitoring and measurement of trade in COVID-19 essential goods
  • sharing of information on measures aimed at easing trade in COVID-19 goods
  • improving transparency in export restrictions, including experiences on choices underpinning the use of such restrictions.

In light of the close relationship between some of these topics with the Harmonized System (HS), the World Customs Organization (WCO) was invited to participate in the sessions on the classification and monitoring of trade in COVID-19 goods. External stakeholders shared their views in a session on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, including representatives from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), DHL, Western Union, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Medtronic, a medical device company.

The six experience-sharing sessions took place on 4 March 2022, 26 April 2022, 18 July 2022, 16 September 2022, 21 November 2022, and 24 March 2023.

The Chair of the Committee, Kenya Uehara, echoed “the general sentiment that the Committee on Market Access (CMA) experience-sharing sessions on trade in COVID-19 related goods have been very useful for members to better understand how we have collectively reacted during this unprecedented situation and also how we could do better in the future.”

Mr Uehara encouraged members to continue to share with the Committee information on actions taken in response to the pandemic. “This is a continuous process from which we can all learn something new that can be applied in the case of future crises,” he noted.

Members praised the flexible and bottom-up approach by the Committee in conducting these sessions and supported maintaining this approach for additional technical dialogues on other topics. Members underlined the thorough and helpful nature of the experience-sharing sessions resulting in the adopted document, which will help members to better implement best practices in the future.

The lessons learned document will be maintained as an evolving document, open to further contributions from members.

HS classification of essential medical goods

Another key outcome of the experience-sharing sessions on COVID-19 was the submission of a communication to the WCO Harmonized System Committee (G/MA/406) by the Chair on behalf of the Committee. The letter proposed amendments to the Harmonized System (HS) and suggested clarifying the classification of certain medical goods which are essential not only for the COVID-19 pandemic but for other future health emergencies.

Gael Grooby, WCO Deputy Director of Tariff and Trade Affairs, reported on the last meeting of the Harmonized System Committee (HSC) in March, where the HSC adopted some of the proposals suggested in the CMA communication. This has resulted in the creation of two additional HS subheadings for ambulances and mobile clinics

These amendments will be part of the package of provisionally approved amendments that will go to the WCO Council for formal acceptance. If accepted, they will be incorporated into HS 2027.

Ms Grooby underlined the importance of further strengthening the collaboration between the two organizations. The cooperation that has been established between the CMA and the HSC in the area of COVID-19 should continue and be extended to cover other critical topics of relevance to the work and mandate of the two bodies, she said.

The Chair of the Committee invited members to familiarise themselves with the WCO's initiative on “Greening the HS” and how the HS could be amended to meet the future needs of environmental policy. Understanding how the HS will be changed to better respond to environmental concerns and the possible implications of such changes on members' tariffs and trade-related measures is of key importance to this Committee, said the Chair.

Quantitative restrictions (QRs)

Members were updated on the state of play of QR notifications received by the WTO Secretariat, compiled in document G/MA/W/114/Rev.5. The report indicates that as of 14 April 2023, 85 members have submitted notifications of their restrictions and prohibitions on imports and exports of goods currently in force.

Quantitative restrictions are, generally speaking, non-tariff measures in the form of prohibitions or restrictions that are imposed on imports or exports, which can be implemented through several policy measures. While QRs are generally prohibited, they are allowed by the WTO under exceptional circumstances and many WTO members use them to achieve certain legitimate objectives, such as the protection of the environment or human, plant and animal health.

The Chair emphasized that QR notifications are an important transparency tool. He noted that while notifications submitted by members under the QR Decision contributed to increasing transparency on trade measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the compliance level with the QR Decision is far from being satisfactory.

The Chair informed members of the Capacity Building Workshop on Notification of Quantitative Restrictions organized by the WTO Secretariat on 24-26 April. The workshop provided training to capital-based officials in charge of QR notifications to help them prepare such notifications for the first time or to improve existing ones.

The 29 capital-based officials attending the workshop in Geneva benefited from technical working sessions with the Secretariat and attended the formal meeting of the Committee on 26 April.

Trade concerns

The Committee addressed 31 trade concerns, of which six were new, covering a wide range of trade policy measures:

  • Angola's import-restricting practices, raised by the European Union and the United States
  • Australia's maturation requirements for imported alcohol, raised by Brazil
  • Australia's discriminatory market access prohibition on 5G equipment, raised by China
  • Canada's discriminatory market access prohibition on 5G equipment, raised by China
  • China's trade-disruptive and restrictive measures, raised by Australia
  • China's procurement law draft revision, raised by Japan
  • China's draft of recommended national standard (GB/T) for office devices, raised by Japan
  • Dominican Republic's discriminatory taxation on some food imported products, raised by the European Union
  • European Union's draft Commission regulation on maximum residue levels for clothianidin and thiamethoxam in certain products, raised by Indonesia and Paraguay
  • European Union's proposal for a regulation on shipments of waste, raised by Indonesia
  • European Union's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, raised by China, Indonesia and the Russian Federation
  • European Union's deforestation-free commodities, raised by Indonesia and the Russian Federation
  • Selective tax on certain imported products by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar, raised by the European Union, Switzerland and the United States
  • India's quality control order for chemical and petrochemical substances, by Indonesia
  • India's basic customs duty on solar photovoltaic cells and modules, raised by China
  • India's approved list of models and manufacturers of solar photovoltaic modules, raised by China
  • India's import policies on tyres, raised by the European Union, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and Thailand
  • Indian restrictions on the imports of certain pulses, raised by Canada
  • India's import restrictions on air conditioners, raised by Japan and Thailand
  • Indonesia's commodity balance mechanism, raised by the European Union
  • Indonesia's customs duties on certain telecommunication products, raised by the European Union and the Unites States
  • Mexico's import quota on glyphosate, raised by the United States
  • Nepal's import ban on energy drinks, raised by Thailand
  • Peru's tax treatment of pisco, raised by the United Kingdom
  • Sri Lanka's import ban on various products, raised by the European Union
  • Türkiye's discriminatory additional tariff on electric vehicles, raised by China
  • United States' disruptive and restrictive measures in the name of national security, raised by China
  • United States, Japan, the Netherlands agreement on chip export restrictions, raised by China
  • United States' series of disruptive policy measures on the global semiconductor industry chain and supply chain, raised by China
  • United States' Section 301 tariffs on certain goods from China, raised by China
  • United States' quantitative restrictions on imports of sturgeon, raised by the European Union

Next meeting

The next formal meeting of the Committee is currently scheduled to take place on 16-17 October 2023. 




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