The WTO Secretariat has released a new report on trade in medical products critical for the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report traces trade flows for products such as personal protective products, hospital and laboratory supplies, medicines and medical technology while providing information on their respective tariffs.Trade in medical products which have now been described as critical and in severe shortage during the COVID-19 crisis(1) totalled about US$ 597 billion in 2019, accounting for 1.7% of total world merchandise trade according to the report.
The ten largest supplying economies accounted for almost three-quarters of total world exports of the products while the ten largest buyers accounted for roughly two-thirds of world imports.
Commitments made under various WTO negotiations and agreements have helped slash import tariffs on these products and improve market access, with the average tariff on COVID-19 medical products standing at 4.8%, lower than the 7.6% average tariff for non-agricultural products in general.
The statistics show that 52% of 134 WTO members impose a tariff of 5% or lower on medical products.
Among them, four members do not levy any tariffs at all: Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Macao, China; and Singapore. The report, however, also identifies markets where tariffs remain high. Tariffs on face masks, for example, can be as high as 55% in some countries.