corona-virus 18 June 2020

Europe proposes global agreement on trade in medical goods during crises

The European Commission is proposing an international agreement that would facilitate trade in medical products during the next global health crisis, with regulations in place to control issues like import and export controls, customs and public procurement.

‘The ongoing global coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need for a collective response from the international community to reinforce preparedness for this and future crises,’ the Commission said in a press release.

‘The present healthcare crisis may be long-lasting, and others may follow. We need to act quickly to improve the resilience of our healthcare systems, including through improved trade policy initiatives,’ European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan said as he presented a set of ideas from the European Union to representatives of a group of 13 World Trade Organization (‘WTO’) countries.

‘The ideas we are putting forward today aim to facilitate global access to affordable healthcare products, including for vulnerable countries without appropriate manufacturing capacities. The goal is to make supply chains more resilient and diversified and to support efforts to build strategic reserves of critical equipment. This is a global challenge requiring global solutions, so we are committed to working with like-minded partners to achieve these aims,’ he added.

The Commission says that a future agreement could facilitate trade in medical care products and contribute to stronger global preparedness for upcoming health shocks by: abolishing tariffs on pharmaceutical and medical goods, establishing a scheme of global cooperation in times of health crisis, covering issues such as import and export restrictions, improving customs and transit, public procurement and transparency, and improving the current WTO rules applicable to trade in essential goods.

‘These ideas address the ongoing international discussion on how to facilitate access to affordable pharmaceutical and medical goods and avoid trade disruptions in times of crisis, and could form part of an international agreement open to all WTO members,’ the Commission said.