The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) urged governments to exercise caution when implementing trade restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Countries can implement temporary export limits to prevent domestic shortages of critical goods but "taken collectively, export restrictions can be dangerously counterproductive," the IMF and the WTO said in a joint statement on Friday.
"In particular, we are concerned by supply disruptions from the growing use of export restrictions and other actions that limit trade of key medical supplies and food," the statement said.
In 2019, exports of crucial goods, such as personal protective equipment, cleaners and ventilators, which are critical to fight against the novel coronavirus, were $300 billion, it recalled.
Noting that governments have taken several measures, including cutting import duties or curbing customs-clearance processes, the statement said: "We welcome these actions. Accelerating imports of critical medical supplies translates into saving lives and livelihoods.”
“Similar attention should be paid to facilitating exports of key items like drugs, protective gear, and ventilators," it added.
The joint statement also warned regarding the supply of trade finance, saying: "Adequate trade finance is important to ensure that imports of food and essential medical equipment reach the economies where they are most needed.”
In addition, it said, critical workers for agricultural production are not able to move while new cropping seasons are starting.
"We urge governments to address these challenges in a safe and proportionate manner," it underlined.
After originating in China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 185 countries and regions, with Europe and the US currently the worst-hit regions.
The pandemic has killed over 192,000 people, with total infections exceeding 2.73 million, while more than 752,100 have recovered, according to U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
By Gokhan Ergocun