Maintaining open trade

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

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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