COVID-19 and NTMs

Governments across the world used several trade policy instruments to respond to the various challenges and pressures created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both tariff and non-tariff measures were applied: some sought to facilitate trade, and others restricted it.

The use of NTMs was noticeable with nearly 300 measures applied, as of March 15, 2021. Trade restricting NTMs included export restrictions of various forms to prevent shortages of essential goods, and stricter SPS requirements to ensure product quality and safety. 

Measures to facilitate trade involved relaxation of authorization and licensing requirements as well as exemption from various forms of taxes on imported products.

Medical goods, essential food products and some non-essential items were subject to trade measures. UNCTAD estimates that nearly 40% of all trade restrictive NTMs have been terminated, as of March 15, 2021. However, 60% of them are still in place and NTMs on vaccines are starting to appear.

Quick Facts (March 2021)

COVID-19 Trade Measures
 

COVID-19 Trade Measures

 

Number of NTMs used, by Development Status
 

Number of NTMs used, by Development Status

 

Number of Countries/Customs Territories using NTMs
 

Number of Countries/Customs Territories using NTMs

 

Frequently used Trade Restricting NTMs
 

Frequently used Trade Restricting NTMs

 

Frequently used Trade Facilitating NTMs
 

Frequently used Trade Facilitating NTMs

 

NTMs classification: Chapter-wise Breakdown
 

NTMs classification: Chapter-wise Breakdown

 

NTMs: Objectives
 

NTMs: Objectives

 

NTMs: Status
 

NTMs: Status

 

NTMs: Timeline
 

NTMs: Timeline

 

NTMs: Product Coverage
 

NTMs: Product Coverage

 

Status of NTMs, by Product Type
 

Status of NTMs, by Product Type

 

NTMs on COVID-19 Vaccines
 

NTMs on COVID-19 Vaccines

 

Methodology

The UNCTAD COVID-19 NTM dataset builds on databases - WTO COVID-19: Measures affecting trade in goods; WTO Quantitative restrictions and ITC COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures, with additional UNCTAD research covering national government websites of laws and regulations as well as news media sources. Noting that many COVID-19 NTMs go through a cycle of establishment stage, gradual phase-out stages and termination stage, UNCTAD structured the dataset in which one measure represents one whole cycle, rather than an individual stage. Then, UNCTAD categorized the type of NTMs by using the International Classification of NTMs and added additional variables such as product category and development status of imposing country.

 

Commonly used NTMs

Trade Facilitating Measures

Trade Restricting Measures

L41* Tax and duty exemptions, reductions, other fiscal incentives reducing burden of taxes otherwise due

P31 Export prohibition

G4 Regulations concerning terms of payment for imports

P33 Licensing, permit or registration requirements to export

E125* Licensing for the protection of public health

A11 Prohibitions for SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) reasons

A83* Certification requirements for SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) reasons

E313 Temporary prohibition, including suspension of issuance of licenses

L11 Transfers of funds (monetary transfers) by the Government (to an enterprise) – Grants

P32 Export quotas

D12* Anti-dumping duties

P22 Export monitoring and surveillance requirements

B83* Certification requirements for TBT (technical barriers to trade) reasons

E325 Prohibition for the protection of public health

L9 Support for consumers or producers not elsewhere specified

C9 Other pre-shipment inspection formalities not elsewhere specified

E325 Prohibition for the protection of public health

B14 Authorization requirements for importing certain products TBT (technical barriers to trade) reasons

B7* Product quality, safety, or performance requirements for TBT (technical barriers to trade) reasons

 

B14* Authorization requirements for importing certain products TBT (technical barriers to trade) reasons

 

* Measures relaxed to facilitate trade

 

Implications for Trade

Many measures such as exemptions from duties and taxes (L41); relaxation of SPS requirements (A83, B7, B14 and B83) and easing of non-automatic licensing requirements (E125) on imported medical supplies helped expedite trade of such goods, thus ensuring adequate supplies for the source country.

On the other hand, use of export prohibitions (P31); export quotas (P32); licensing, permit or registration requirements to export (P33) on medical supplies negatively affected trade and hence the availability of essential goods in import-dependent countries, particularly the most vulnerable ones. These measures, often imposed without coordination with trading partners disrupted global value chains, further impeding smooth flow of trade in critical goods.

Some measures like export monitoring and surveillance requirements (P22) helped ensure that the exported product was safe and of high quality. However, they also ended up delaying exports due to the additional inspections and checks imposed.