Export restrictions during global health crises: The international community can and must do better

from Health Economics at https://bit.ly/3jY0Udy on November 2, 2020 at 08:34PM


COVID-19 represents one of the biggest pandemic faced by humanity in recent times, spreading to almost all countries and territories on all continents. Because it spread so suddenly and quickly, COVID-19 produced an unparalleled increase in demand in personal protective equipment, medical products and devices, which far outpaced the ability to increase supply. The outcome was a shortage in these products, which lead several countries to introduce export restrictions. This paper offers a legal and economic assessment of these export restrictions and argues that the current international rules ā€“ administered respectively by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ā€“ are ill-suited to deal with critical shortages that are likely to arise during, or at least in the early days of, a pandemic. Absent better rules and greater international cooperation, there was no alternative to the proliferation of export restrictions. The paper proposes the establishment of a new normative framework involving both WHO and WTO to avert supply shortages and export restrictions during a pandemic.