Trade policy and medical supplies during COVID-19

Ideas for avoiding shortages and ensuring continuity of trade
Chatham House briefing Published 8 April 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 453 2
Photo of a warehouse of ‘Santé publique France’ storing face masks as part of France’s strategic national masks reserve

Simon J. Evenett

Professor of International Trade and Economic Development, University of St. Gallen

This briefing, which is published under the Global Economy and Finance Programme’s ‘Rebuilding International Economic Cooperation’ project, examines the trade dimension of medical goods supplies in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It reviews how governments have sought to minimize risks of shortages of medical goods, highlights the flaws in some of the approaches advocated to date, and proposes a framework to address these supported by international coordination.

The framework has three parts. First, governments should do more to promote effective public health responses – such as early intervention in the event of a crisis – to mitigate spikes in demand for medical goods in the first place. Second, sector-specific national measures should be introduced to streamline domestic and overseas procurement and de-risk supply chains. Third, a confidence-building memorandum of understanding (MoU) should codify key principles internationally. The MoU could be presented for adoption at the G7 summit in June 2021.