WTO Secretariat updates members on COVID-19 reports and new tools

At the information session organised by the Committee on Market Access on January 28, 2022, WTO members were updated on the work undertaken by the WTO Secretariat in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a number of reports and new tools which are particularly relevant to the work of the Committee. The information session on trade in COVID-19-related goods had been requested by members who commended the effort made by the Secretariat since the pandemic began.

The first presentation focused on the latest trends in medical goods trade in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. This presentation was based on the information note on Trade in medical moods in the context of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, which was last updated on 14 December 2021. The Secretariat also explained some of the difficulties in measuring trade in essential products to tackle the pandemic, as explained in the information note Improving trade data for products essential to fight COVID-19: A possible way forward, published in July 2021.

The second session looked more specifically at trade in COVID-19 vaccines. The first presentation  showcased work by the Secretariat with other stakeholders, including vaccine manufacturers and the World Customs Organization (WCO), to identify the classification of COVID-19 vaccine inputs in the Harmonized System (HS). The main source for this presentation was the Joint Indicative List of Critical COVID-19 Vaccine Inputs for Consultation, published in July 2021.

Members also looked at how critical vaccine ingredients and the COVID-19 vaccines themselves are affected by tariffs, based on the information note COVID-19 vaccine production and tariffs on vaccine inputs of 8 October 2021. A third presentation explained to members the main features of the WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker, a new tool launched on 19 November 2021 to showcase the latest developments in vaccine trade.

The last session dealt with trade-related bottlenecks and trade-facilitating measures in the case of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing. The Secretariat explained the reality on the ground for vaccine manufacturing, drawing on the update of the Indicative list of trade-related bottlenecks and trade-facilitating measures on critical products to combat COVID-19, published on 8 October 2021.

Delegates and capital-based officials attending the information session raised questions on the change in trade patterns in medical goods since the start of the pandemic, ways to improve data for more granular information, possible concrete actions by members, and potential areas of collaboration between the WTO and the WCO. Members also requested information about the many trade bottlenecks that persist after almost two years of the pandemic and their evolution.

The Chair of the Committee, Mr Chakarin Kolmosiri of Thailand, thanked members for their active participation and the WTO Secretariat for allowing a much better understanding of the work undertaken to monitor and assess the trade-related impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He will report on this information session at the next formal meeting of the Committee, scheduled to take place on 30 and 31 March 2022.

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