Nations ‘sober up,’ start to lift bans on key medical exports

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Following two months where nations imposed 150 trade-related restrictions on exports of critical medical goods, some countries are slowly beginning to roll them back.

Over the past month, China, the UK, Turkey, Russia, Sri Lanka and Thailand rescinded their export restrictions on ventilators, hand sanitizer and other medical equipment, according to the University of St. Gallen’s latest Global Trade Alert report.

Governments have begun to loosen up because they realize export restrictions aren’t all that effective in ensuring sufficient supplies of medical equipment for their citizens, said Simon Evenett, a professor at the University of St. Gallen.

“Lots of countries realized it was stupid putting import taxes on soap and things like that,” Evenett told Bloomberg in a phone interview. “They freaked out in March and then they sobered up in May.”

In total, some 90 jurisdictions have established 123 import policy reforms aimed at making it easier to trade medical supplies and medicines, the group said.

Opening better

“IT suggests that maybe the right side of the argument is winning,” he said. “That opening up markets to medical trade is better than restricting them.”

A key question that remains is whether European nations will relax their temporary export authorization scheme for personal protective equipment at the end of this month.

Though European Union member- states have granted authorizations for 90 percent of foreign applications for medical exports, some American officials argue the scheme shows the US is alone in the fight against coronavirus.

That’s because the EU is a crucial player in the global market for Covid-19 medical products. Bloomberg News

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