Can Export Restrictions Be Deterred?
Pelc, Krzysztof. 2020. "Can Export Restrictions Be Deterred?" Canadian Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming
10 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2020 Last revised: 16 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 10, 2020
The COVID-19 global health pandemic has led some 75 countries to restrict their exports of hundreds of products, ranging from antibiotics and face masks to medical ventilators. The cost of these measures, which lead to global shortages, will be counted in human lives. Yet the multilateral trade regime lacks effective legal disciplines on export restrictions. In response, scholars have pinned their hopes on the prospect of potential retaliation working as a deterrent. Are such hopes warranted? Early evidence suggests not: the threat of retaliation cannot effectively deter most export controls, because the most flagrant country users are also shielded by the very characteristics that render them prone to imposing export restraints in the first place. The empirical evidence indicates the prospect of retaliation has played no role in the decision to restrict exports by the world’s biggest exporters of essential medical goods. Yet autarky is unlikely to be a workable solution to assure domestic supply. I suggest that attempts at limiting market consolidation of essential goods may be one way of reducing the incentive to implement export controls in the first place.
Keywords: COVID-19, export restrictions, PPE, retaliation, trade, WTO
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