Maintaining open trade

This page gathers together quotes from the international community in response to COVID-19 and its impact on world trade.

Throughout the pandemic, the WTO rules have kept global trade flowing and fostered transparency on measures taken by countries to respond to the crisis. … The pandemic has placed tremendous strain on peoples’ health and livelihoods around the world. The WTO can show that it is capable of effectively addressing a global challenge like COVID-19, and helping the world build back better.

Ambassador Katherine Tai, US Trade Representative
14 October 2021

The WTO remains the most important forum for creating modern trade rules, providing transparency for government actions that promote and hinder trade, and resolving disputes between Member States. … Updating the WTO’s “operating system”, meaningfully dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and broader public health issues, creating trade rules to promote environmental sustainability, updating the “rulebook” to take account of the modern digital economy, as well as making trade as inclusive as possible would not only serve business interests but also broader expectations from citizens and civil society.

International Chamber of Commerce
29 September 2021

I remain convinced that mass vaccination is the only way to contain the pandemic and ensure global economic recovery. Economic recovery will also depend on the quality and dynamism of partnerships and the liberalization of trade between developing countries. We must therefore seize the full potential of South-South and triangular cooperation in the technical, cultural and commercial spheres.

H.E. Mr Hassoumi Massoudou, Minister of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Niger
21 September 2021

We must put life first and promote vaccine accessibility around the world. COVID-19 vaccination is the largest effort of this kind in human history. … Vaccines are first and foremost a global public good. … While ramping up total supply, producing countries should also support developing countries through technology transfer and joint production, and safeguard the global supply chain of raw materials.

We must practice multilateralism and make international cooperation more effective.

Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China
5 August 2021

There has been discussion on starting to produce vaccines in every country. I think the fact that vaccines were dealt with at a truly international level is the reason we got vaccines as fast as we did. There, the avoidance of autonomy has been very important.

Jacob Wallenberg, European RoundTable of Industrialists
6 July 2021

Disruptions in the travel and tourism industry offer new opportunities to review the business model and improve competitiveness in Africa. It is crucial to use this momentum to reshape existing travel policies and frameworks to make tourism an anchor for endogenous and sustainable socio-economic growth.

Ms Cristina Duarte, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General
23 June 2021

While globalization increases countries' specialization, as well as the dependence of producers at the end of the production cycle on downstream producers (and vice versa), it also enables the diversification of supplies and thus better risk management. Paradoxically perhaps, a crisis that reveals the limits of globalization can also help to preserve it, or even foster it, as it encourages the diversification of supplies and markets. This is probably what also explains the relative resilience of international trade.

Jean-Marc Siroën, Professor Emeritus of Economics at PSL-Dauphine University
14 June 2021

To close the global vaccination gap, we need to increase production capacities in order to export more vaccines to poorer countries. […] All States must avoid restrictive measures that affect the supply chains of vaccine manufacturers in other countries. We also need to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology, so that more countries can produce vaccines. […] Our common global COVID-19 vaccine action to close the vaccination gap must be the first step toward a genuine global health cooperation, as foreseen by the Rome Declaration recently adopted at the Global Health Summit.

Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission
29 May 2021

Global immunity is far from being achieved. While developed countries have the luxury of over-supplying their citizens with the vaccine, developing countries are experiencing shortages and the vaccination of their populations is slow. The WTO has a new opportunity, at such a pivotal moment for humanity, to ensure that the Organization's philosophy (free trade) is consistent with its practices.

Danilo Torres Reina, Director, University of Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano
27 May 2021

The global COVID-19 pandemic will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere. Canada will continue to work with its international partners and lead the Ottawa Group in strengthening global supply chains and accelerating the production and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and related medical products so we can build back better from the pandemic.

Mary Ng, Canada's Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade
26 May 2021

We are facing the first global shock of the 21st century in COVID-19, with its disruptive and devastating effects felt everywhere in the world. Private investors and SMSEs must be mobilized. Greater leveraging is needed to further boost the private sector's ability to mobilize, especially in the area of infrastructure. Invest plenty, fast and well: that must be our motto. And it is crucial to ensure capacity so that the whole world can be vaccinated, because we will only emerge from this crisis if everyone has the means to do so.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council
22 May 2021

Borders have been sidelined during the pandemic and will surely be so in the future. Perhaps inertia will lead us to that. … We therefore have to think quickly and bring about this rebirth of world trade through multilateral or bilateral relations. … The world must be able to open up, in trade and in complementary relations, and once again tap into the power of this international trade so that our nations may progress.

Luis Lacalle Pou, President of Uruguay
22 April 2021

Since the onset of the pandemic, MSMEs using digital technologies have fared better than their counterparts that do not. ... Switching from cash to digital currency fosters productivity and profitability by reducing operational costs and making business transactions cheaper, smoother and more secure. ... Promoting an environment that fosters a digital culture conducive to MSMEs will enable microenterprises to be competitive in a post-COVID environment.

Elizabeth Berthe, MicroSave Consulting
20 April 2021

Trade finance drives trade and will play a key role in the recovery and structural transformation of African economies to better prepare the region for future global crises.

Dr Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist at Afreximbank
19 April 2021

The pandemic has amplified pre-existing vulnerabilities such as a heavy reliance on transit countries for international trade and a high dependency on primary commodities for exports. … We must increase the trade potential of landlocked developing countries. This must include enhanced trade facilitation, increased value addition and diversification. This is at the core of achieving sustainable economic growth, creating green and productive jobs, generating decent jobs and eradicating poverty.

Ms Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
12 April 2021

The pandemic has led to new opportunities, such as the increased adoption of e-commerce locally and internationally. … Technology will also play a key role in countries' efforts to continue facilitating trade in general terms but also to speed up clearance at border posts and to manage risk. Technology will no longer be an option, it is a must.

María Luisa Hayem, El Salvador's Minister of the Economy
24 March 2021

The fastest way to get our societies and our economies back on track is through vaccine equity … increasing domestic production capacity in Africa could make access to COVID-19 vaccines more equitable and, in the long term, expand global production capacity. A strategic and comprehensive approach that addresses trade, regulatory and technical issues will need to be adopted in order to strengthen domestic production capacity for safe, effective and affordable products.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
23 March 2021

There should be deliberate policies to address the issues of trade imbalance. It is a good thing that some multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization, which incidentally now has an African head, recognise this imperative, and are considering ways of building confidence and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation at both ends of the global economic divide.

Dr Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria
19 March 2021

Global value chains for medical and pharmaceutical products, equitable and affordable access to treatments and vaccines are essential, especially for developing countries. Helping MSMEs to achieve international trade integration is vital, given their contribution to employment and development.

Carola Ramón, Argentina's Undersecretary for Economic Multilateral and Bilateral Negotiations
3 March 2021

If this pandemic has made anything clear, it's the importance of international cooperation. Tackling a global epidemic can only be done through open and fluid markets.

Xiana Méndez, Spain's Trade Secretary
2 March 2021

The first thing that countries can do is to band together to commit to uphold and strengthen the global trading system. … We must also pursue connectivity and streamline trade rules to enable businesses to move efficiently across borders. … The world needs to work together to overcome challenges of a global scale. Even if a country’s efforts at containing the pandemic were successful, it would mean little if trade and travel remain impossible while other countries are ravaged by the pandemic.

Chan Chun Sing, Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister
26 February 2021

Trade underpins global growth, helping to create jobs and alleviate poverty. The COVID 19 pandemic has seen significant downward trends in global trade, and trade will form an important part of the international recovery effort. It’s important that we have a strong multilateral framework at the WTO with effective leadership to guide members’ efforts and undertake necessary reform.

Damien O'Connor, New Zealand's Minister for Trade and Export Growth
16 February 2021

The post-pandemic period will provide a unique opportunity for global cooperation to rebuild the international economic order and the international social order. Countries need comprehensive trade strategies, they need to prioritize investment in innovation, technology, infrastructure and also the digital economy.

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC)
7 February 2021

The events of the last year have demonstrated that no country, no people and no continent can stand alone in the face of the challenges that confront humanity. From pandemics to climate change, from war to poverty, we need to overcome shared problems through collective action.

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's President
6 February 2021

The most serious crises call for the most ambitious decisions to shape the future. We believe that this one can be an opportunity to rebuild consensus for an international order based on multilateralism and the rule of law through efficient cooperation, solidarity, and coordination. … The pandemic calls for a strong coordinated international response that rapidly expands access to tests, treatments, and vaccines, recognising extensive immunisation as a global public good that must be available and affordable for all.

Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Macky Sall, António Guterres, Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen
3 February 2021

In this interconnected world, also demonstrated by COVID-19, all of us need to be healthy and building back better for a post COVID restoration of the global economy, and indeed, we have to be working to strengthen the multilateral system for collective solutions which include implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Elizabeth Morgan, specialist in international trade policy and international politics
3 February 2021

Cooperation is proving the most efficient way to deal with the pandemic and its impact. We wouldn’t have been able to develop a vaccine in less than a year if it hadn’t been for international cooperation — by the way, public and private.

Arancha González Laya, Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs
29 January 2021

One of the concepts that has been circulating during COVID, and now, is stake holder capitalism, meaning that entities, whether the government, private sector or civil society or the international community, everybody has a role to play to ensure that we are able to recover and plow ahead through this pandemic.

Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation
28 January 2021

Having universal access to vaccines for all countries is something that is going to benefit everyone. This is where multilateral cooperation would be particularly important. … This is not a time for any country to be first. This is a time for all countries to cooperate and create real progress for humanity.

Petya Koeva Brooks, Deputy Director, IMF Research Department
26 January 2021

Though international law and international organisations are not perfect instruments, they remain important as levellers especially for small states. We must continue to plug into these global networks in order to allow our companies and small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the engines of the economy and employment, to expand into newer markets.

Professor Joseph Liow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore
19 January 2021

Overcoming the pandemic and its aftermath will require global coordination and strengthened multilateralism as part of economic and social recovery efforts.

Marcelo Ebrard, President of CELAC
15 December 2020

Whilst this pandemic is having a profound negative impact on sustainable development and our efforts to combat environmental degradation and eradicate poverty, it also presents opportunities to set our recovery on a path of transformative sustainable development.

Barbara Creecy, South Africa's Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries
4 December 2020

Trade and health can and should be mutually supportive. The WTO has a pivotal role to play in strengthening synergies between these two areas. More broadly, the rules established under the WTO framework ensure the open markets that are essential for rapid and sustainable economic recovery. These rules are the best defence against protectionism and "might makes right". They have rarely been as important as they are today, because we need open markets to overcome this crisis. Both in the short and long term, international trade is a driver of growth and prosperity.

Guy Parmelin, Vice President of the Swiss Confederation
25 November 2020

It will be up to us to turn this crisis into a historic opportunity that will allow us to definitively transform the economies of our subregion, harmonize and converge our economic and financial systems, and create a regional business fabric capable of competing in the international arena

Leoncio Amada NZE, President for the CEMAC region at the African Energy Chamber
1 June 2020

Specialization and production on a large scale generate significant economic benefits. This is what enables consumers to access sophisticated goods at a low cost. If, however, we backtrack, and build value chains that are less fragmented and more resistant to shocks, then production costs will rise and consumers will foot the bill

Isabelle Méjean, professor at the École polytechnique française
26 May 2020

In a world that is interdependent, a strong system of multilaterally agreed rules lies at the foundation of a stable and predictable system. And in a world during and after COVID-19 where economic challenges seem inevitable, such rules will have an even more crucial role to play

RV Anuradha, specialist in international economic law and policy
19 May 2020

We are in an economy where it is no longer possible to produce certain goods in a single country. For example, there is no such thing nowadays as a self-sufficient electronics industry in any given country.

As with the automobile industry, the aviation industry and many other sectors, products are made up of a range of sophisticated components and the technology, know-how and means of production needed to produce them are scattered throughout the planet.

I do not believe this crisis on its own will result in a major restructuring of global trade because basically it will not bring into question the advantages of international value chains in terms of costs

Sébastien Jean, Director, Centre d'études prospectives et d'informations internationales (CEPII)
13 May 2020

European and international cooperation is indispensable for emerging from the crisis and for recovery. It is up to the G20 countries, in collaboration with the WTO and the IMF, to ensure that an open international trading system is maintained and to limit the impact of the pandemic, in particular on developing countries. Avoiding a protectionist escalation is essential

General Confederation of Italian Industry, Federation of German Industries, Mouvement des Entreprises de France
13 May 2020

What African countries need, apart from support for their health sectors, is support to keep their economies afloat and to protect SMEs from the cessation of business. … Never have we needed multilateralism and solidarity between our peoples as much as we do today. Cooperation must take precedence over competition, and herein lies the greatest challenge for Africa and for the world

Dorothy Tembo, Acting Executive Director of the International Trade Centre
12 May 2020

Foreign investment is a major source not only of capital, but also of technology transfers that allow developing countries to overcome their industrial lag. The current tendency to close borders is retrograde. What comes next will depend on the magnitude of the recession that has been forecast. The deeper and more dire it is, the more leaders will be obliged to go back to the negotiating table

Simon Evenett, Professor of International Trade and Economic Development at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland
11 May 2020

The world needs an aggressive post COVID-19 plan to address the economic and social repercussions of the pandemic. A plan that leaves no one behind. It could include […] activating international trade so that our products generate the revenue that economies need to maintain employment

José Valencia, Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, Ecuador
8 May 2020

This situation has made more companies realize that it’s not ideal to rely on one supplier or one country for certain products. We have to diversify supply so that we are less dependent on one or two countries. But that doesn’t necessarily have to mean that we need more production in Europe. Companies don’t decide to leave Europe because they want to but because they can’t remain competitive in Europe.

Protectionism is not the answer. We have to make sure that third markets remain open for our exports. Even if we start producing more in Europe, it will not all be consumed here.

Luisa Santos, Director for International Relations at BusinessEurope
5 May 2020

Yes, trade relations entail some measure of risk-taking. Despite everything, one cannot overstate the advantages associated with interconnected economies at the global level; they far outweigh the costs. The increase in global trade over the past decades, fostered by the removal of certain barriers such as customs duties, has enabled hundreds of millions of people to be lifted out of poverty, not only in Asia, but throughout the world. We should not allow the pandemic to undo everything that has been achieved.

Patrick Zweifel, chief economist at asset management company
30 April 2020

This crisis has thrown a harsh light on the gaps in our global order — gaps caused by social injustice, income inequality, poverty and misgovernance. Many are optimistic we will simply rebuild after this pandemic. ... Instead of “de-globalization” — as some are advocating — I see us all benefiting from a “re-globalization.” This time, though, we must concentrate on getting it right, aiming for a renewed integration of our world that centres on the well-being of its people. A re-globalization that strengthens and builds capacities within our countries and ushers in true cooperation rather than competition. A re-globalization that recognizes that a single country, acting alone, cannot succeed. One country’s failure is every country’s failure.

King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, Jordan
27 April 2020

In a matter of a few weeks, COVID-19 has flattened the world, making everyone vulnerable and fearful, but also reminding us how interdependent we all are. Instead of wasting this crisis, the international community must now seize the opportunity to strengthen global cooperation and facilitate trade. That means rejecting protectionism, which would only prolong the pandemic and deepen the already-severe global recession.

Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture, and Heritage of Kenya
24 April 2020

Current measures to contain the spread of the virus are affecting imports and exports of food products. Food products must be able to move freely across borders while complying with existing food safety regulations.

Máximo Torero, Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Development Department, FAO
17 April 2020

Needless to say, the protection of life and health is the priority, but food production and livelihoods come just after. This is why agricultural activity must continue. Borders must remain open for the transport of food and agricultural products: we cannot allow COVID-19 to undo all the progress that has been made, through tireless efforts over recent years, towards greater trade liberalization.

QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General, and Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture
16 April 2020

It’s critical that commercial trade continues to flow regardless of anything else taking place around it. Because if that stops, the humanitarian work cannot happen. Quite simply, millions of people’s lives depend on the flow of trade, and the impact of disruption on people’s food security is hugely concerning.

Arif Husain, World Food Programme chief economist
16 April 2020

International trade is vital for job creation and economic growth in our country and throughout the world. … Technology has radically changed the way we produce goods and services. The expansion of value chains reflects the new dynamism of the world economy. In today's world, a large part of production is organized into production chains in which a number of countries participate, which significantly alters the geopolitics of trade in the knowledge society. … Ensuring ever freer, more fluid and more predictable trade should be a central aim of our actions, especially in uncertain times.

Dyalá Jiménez, Minister of Foreign Trade, Costa Rica
15 April 2020

Closing our borders completely would only deprive us all of goods and products that we can produce together, hurting our economies and worsening unemployment. Dealing with the immediate crises while not losing sight of the longer-term objectives is the best way to enable our economies to survive this crisis, and to bounce back after COVID-19 passes.

Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
14 April 2020

ASEAN must remain open for trade. Crisis or no crisis, as no country can stand alone. Let us, therefore, ensure the supply chain connectivity and the smooth flow of goods within our region.

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines
14 April 2020

Too many countries are adopting policies that risk disrupting access to medical supplies and destabilizing food markets. We know from history that such policies aren’t just ineffective — they actually aggravate the harm they’re intended to ease. It’s smarter to take a coordinated approach to boosting production and meeting the needs of the most vulnerable.

Mari Pangestu, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships
8 April 2020

I welcome WTO and ICC's call for increased action on trade to ensure an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the virtual business roundtable to provide concrete advice to governments.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization
3 April 2020

The rapid spread of COVID-19 can pose a serious challenge to global food security. The Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) will remain vigilant and continue keeping a close watch on international food market developments so as to enhance transparency and assure policy coordination in these troubled times.

AMIS chairs: Marcelo Fernandes Guimarães of Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture and Anastassios Haniotis of the European Commission
3 April 2020

The coronavirus pandemic presents us with an opportunity to effect systemic changes that could protect women from bearing the heaviest brunt of shocks like these in the future … Gender-responsive trade policies would open new opportunities to women as employees and entrepreneurs. Our ability to bounce back from this crisis is dependent on how we include everyone equally … If more women take part in shaping a new social and economic order, chances are that it will be more responsive to everyone’s needs and make us all more resilient to future shocks.

Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary-General, and Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Director of Division on International Trade and Commodities, UNCTAD
1 April 2020

Trade policy can make an important contribution to ensuring an effective exit from the crisis. That’s why we should work together … and avoid tensions and obstacles to world trade.

Peter Altmaier, Germany's Economy Minister
31 March 2020

What most encourages today is the opening up of expertise and the fact that knowledge, scientific discovery, equipment, medicines and personnel are being shared. It is happening within nations, and increasingly across international borders; an indispensable, albeit delayed reaction, that every person, in every nation, needs to do their part.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia
30 March 2020

COVID-19 is no longer only a global value chain problem but is affecting all types of foreign investment. ... The nature and scale of policy packages adopted by governments will be critical to stemming the pandemic’s longer-term impact on cross-border investment and global supply chains.

Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
30 March 2020

I want to emphasize the importance of preserving human life. This is the number one priority of the United States. We should do as little as possible to disrupt supply chains and be cognizant of the effects on our neighbours.

Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative
30 March 2020

A supportive business environment, with expedited approval of investment authorizations and operation permits, would allow firms in developing countries to rapidly expand capacity in critical medical supplies. A conducive trade policy can facilitate imports and exports through reduced tariffs and nontariff barriers and dedicated lanes for release and clearance of goods. Also vital would be elimination of export restrictions, which defeat the purpose of supplying to global markets. Public health systems in these developing countries and their neighbours would also benefit from access to the products manufactured under such a compact.

Anabel González, senior fellow at Peterson Institute for International Economics
27 March 2020

The impact of this pandemic has spread to reach the global economy, financial markets, trade, and global supply chains, hampering growth and development and reversing the gains accomplished in the previous years ... This human crisis requires a global response. The world counts on us to come together and cooperate in order to face this challenge.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia
26 March 2020

The free movement of goods and services is our strongest, and frankly, our only asset to ensure supplies can go to where they are needed most.  ... It is why we are calling for priority ‘green lanes’ for essential freight transport. These will ensure that crossing the border takes no more than 15 minutes. And they will help ensure that goods and supplies can go where they are needed and we can all avoid shortages.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
26 March 2020

The international trade system functions well in normal times. Now we have to think about how we can make sure the world trade system can better handle crises like this. We will inevitably have a discussion on strategic sectors and strategic stocks, but we also need a discussion on how to uphold trade in times of crisis.

“When all this is done, we will have a discussion on globalization. There are negative effects of globalization, but this also shows that we’re all in this together. The answer to the questions that are raised should not be a plea for less globalization. We have everything to lose if we roll back globalization.

Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s deputy prime minister and finance minister
25 March 2020

In order to facilitate international trade we advocate a simultaneous agreement between the G20 states on a crisis moratorium for new tariffs — on all goods. Also, the pending WTO moratorium on electronic data transfers should be extended and global rules for non-discriminatory digital trade agreed.

Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce
25 March 2020

E-commerce is extremely useful and critical for purchase and delivery of essential items. Unfortunately, many countries do not include e-commerce as essential services during lockdowns.

African e-commerce provider
25 March 2020

If SMEs don't work, no one gets paid. In many developing countries, employees don't have savings and depend on end-of-month salaries to buy groceries during lockdown.

South African SME
24 March 2020

Procurement in health systems is one of the activities most hard-hit by corruption. With medicine and medical supplies shortages being reported there will be an additional strain on procurement. It’s estimated that 10-25% of all money spent in procurement globally is lost to corruption and in the EU 28% of health corruption cases are related specifically to procurement of medical equipment. With the increased demand for medicines and equipment there’s the potential increased risk of collusion and that suppliers might demand higher prices knowing that governments have no other option but to pay. Having open and transparent contracting processes would allow red flags of corruption to be more easily spotted, leaving corrupt actors less space to hide and ensure governments are being charged reasonable prices so they can provide the best care possible to patients.

Natalie Rhodes, Transparency International
13 March 2020




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