Trade is Essential in a Pandemic

Featuring Cato Institute

Countries are facing critical shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other medical supplies. Keeping supply chains moving and markets open is integral to fighting COVID-19. Restricting trade during the pandemic is problematic and short‐​sighted.

In our trade war with China, we have imposed tariffs on a wide range of products including basic medical equipment like masks, gloves, and thermometers. This creates an unnecessary barrier for medical professionals facing shortages.

Many countries, including the United States, are concerned over exporting the medical supplies that they do have. However, an export ban doesn’t make sense. It could disincentivize production and generate more shortages, and also lead to retaliatory bans by our trading partners. We should use the World Trade Organization to coordinate with other countries at different stages of the virus to determine optimal medical supply and demand for those who need it most.

A global pandemic requires a global response. The good news is that we already have many mechanisms in place to collaborate on an international level. Now is the time to use them.