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Coronavirus update: Concentrated global trade in medical products and high import tariffs

Geoff Riley

10th August 2020

Research from the World Trade Organisation highlights the concentrated nature of export supplies of key medical products.

These include essential items such as pharmaceuticals, medical products and personal protective equipment (PPE) many of which have been in short supply at critical times.

Data shows that Germany, the United States, and Switzerland supply 35% of medical products and that China, Germany and the US export 40% of personal protective products.

And these essential supplies also attract relatively high import tariffs. For example, the average applied tariff for hand soap is 17% and PPE supplies used in the fight against COVID-19 attract an average tariff of 11.5%.

More detail

Exports of medical products: Germany (14%), the United States (12%) and Switzerland (9%) held the leading share of world exports of medical products in 2019. Singapore exported 18% of the world’s breathing apparatus, including respirators and ventilators.

Exports of protective products, including face masks, hand soap, sanitizer and protective spectacles: China leads the way with 17% of world exports, followed by Germany (12%) and the United States (10%). China supplied 25% world exports of face masks in 2019.

Import tariffs: Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Macao, China; and Singapore do not levy any import tariffs at all on medical products. European Union members apply the EU common external tariff with an average of 1.5%. The global average applied tariff for hand soap is 17%.

Read the research report here

Geoff Riley

Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for over thirty years. He has over twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.

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