International Trade Deemed Essential in Tackling COVID-19

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

As the decision-making body of the World Health Organization opened its 73rd World Health Assembly in Geneva, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) today joined a worldwide network of independent think tanks to issue a “Joint Declaration on the Importance of Collaboration, Open Trade, and Innovation in Tackling COVID-19,” calling on governments to take a specific series of measures related to trade and innovation in order to save lives and prepare countries for future pandemics and public health challenges.

“International trade is vital for providing widespread access to medicines, medical devices, and protective equipment, as very few countries are self-sufficient in producing them,” said ITIF Vice President for Global Innovation Policy Stephen Ezell. “For this reason, governments should eschew placing tariffs on medical goods and further commit themselves to permanently reduce tariffs on medical supplies, devices, medicines, and vaccines via legally binding World Trade Organization commitments, such as the WTO Pharmaceutical Agreement and the Information Technology Agreement.”

The declaration, signed by ITIF and 16 other members of the Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance (GTIPA), urges governments to:

  1. Abolish tariffs on medical supplies and medicines;
  2. Reject export bans on medical supplies;
  3. Reduce customs red tape;
  4. Enable the free flow of relevant health data across borders;
  5. Maintain transparency in collecting and sharing epidemiological data;
  6. Increase cooperation with other countries to accelerate drug approvals;
  7. Support innovation, including through maintaining robust intellectual property (IP) rights.

“The coronavirus represents the world’s most difficult challenge in more than a generation,” adds Ezell. “Only by committing to collaboration, fostering innovation, and keeping trade fair and open will the global community be able to successfully address this dangerous pandemic.”

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