Andreas Fuchs, Lennart Kaplan, Krisztina Kis-Katos, Sebastian S. Schmidt, Felix Turbanisch, Feicheng Wang, 16 September 2020

China assumed an important role during the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 as the main exporter of critical medical goods such as face masks and disinfectants. However, shipments of medical goods have been turned into propaganda campaigns by Chinese state media, raising the question if access to medical goods is granted upon political goodwill. This column uses official monthly trade data from Chinese Customs to investigate the emerging trade patterns, both for commercial exports and donations of medical goods. It shows that both existing trade linkages and political ties to Chinese provinces can help to attract Chinese medical goods.

Sébastien Miroudot, 18 June 2020

Some governments assert that global value chains create economic vulnerabilities in times of a pandemic. This column, taken from a recent Vox eBook, examines recent experiences and the risk-management literature. It concludes that it is a mistake to equate self-sufficiency with robustness – putting all the eggs in one basket is still not a good idea.  It is also a mistake to focus on production location when the imperative is to radically scale up production of vital medical supplies. Importantly, international supply chains will be needed to produce the billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine we will soon need to manufacture and distribute. 

Simon Evenett, L Alan Winters, 04 May 2020

The world trading system has faced policy disruptions as nations have scrambled to find the necessary medical supplies to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. This column suggests that in return for importing governments agreeing to keep their import restrictions at their current low levels, exporting governments agree to qualify the extent to which they can restrict shipments abroad. It presents a straightforward, WTO-consistent, time-limited proposal that countries can publicly commit to at any time.

Fernando Leibovici, Ana Maria Santacreu, Makenzie Peake, 13 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a massive shortage of medical equipment. To face the health crisis, the US needs to increase its supply of protective equipment, and equipment needed to treat infected patients. This column studies the extent to which the US relies on other countries to supply its demand for critical medical goods. Given its heavy reliance on other countries also affected by COVID-19, the US might need to urgently design policies to boost its production of these goods.

Alvaro Espitia, Nadia Rocha, Michele Ruta, 09 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly a concern for developing countries. This column shows that most developing countries rely heavily on imports to meet their needs of medical supplies essential to combat COVID-19. Recently imposed export restrictions by leading producing countries could thus cause significant disruptions in supplies for developing countries and might further contribute to price increases of medical supplies. Taking multiplier effects into account, prices for medical supplies are estimated to rise by up to 23% on average. Tariffs and other restrictions to imports further impair the flow of critical products to developing countries.

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