WTO: impact of Covid-19 on developing economies’ participation in world trade
On 26 May, WTO members assessed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the trading capacity of developing countries in a virtual meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development. Several delegations reported a decline in their exports since the outbreak of Covid-19, noting that developing countries with limited resources are the most affected by the crisis, especially those whose exports are concentrated in a small range of goods. They also said the shift towards the digital economy is exacerbating the digital divide.
Some members underlined the importance of the Work Programme on electronic commerce and the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which provides incentives for technology transfer to least-developed countries. Reference was also made to ongoing initiatives to help developing countries build trading capacities, such as expediting customs procedures for emergency goods.
The plight of African countries was stressed, as many depend on importing medical products. The continent is also affected by shrinking demand for its exports from both developed and developing countries. This is having a particularly negative impact on its agricultural sector and its participation in supply chains. Some delegations called on members to ensure that policy measures taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic do not affect Africa more than necessary. and said they should be transparent, proportionate, temporary and non-discriminatory. They also highlighted the benefits of regional integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area.