Export Restrictions During Global Health Crises: The International Community Can and Must do Better
35 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 2020
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 – administered respectively by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – 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.
Keywords: Export restrictions; pandemic; COVID-19; WTO; WHO; 2005 International Health Regulation; supply shortage
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