EC backs global drive to facilitate trade in healthcare goods

A future agreement can contribute to stronger global preparedness for next sanitary shocks

Photo: EU Phil Hogan.

The Commission's ideas for an international initiative to facilitate trade in healthcare products were revealed by EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan in a conversation with the so-called “Ottawa Group” of World Trade Organisation (WTO) partners after the first discussion among EU ministers on Monday.

The initiative addresses the ongoing international discussion on how to facilitate access to affordable pharmaceutical and medical goods and avoid trade disruptions in times of crisis, and could form part of an international agreement open to all WTO members.

As Commissioner Hogan stated, the present healthcare crisis may be long-lasting, and others may follow. We need to act quickly to improve the resilience of our healthcare systems, including through improved trade policy initiatives, adding that the ideas the Commission is putting forward aim to facilitate global access to affordable healthcare products, including for vulnerable countries without appropriate manufacturing capacities.

He explained that the goal is to make supply chains more resilient and diversified and to support efforts to build strategic reserves of critical equipment. This is a global challenge requiring global solutions, so we are committed to working with like-minded partners to achieve these aims, Commissioner Hogan said.

Abolishing tariffs on pharmaceutical and medical goods, establishing a scheme of global cooperation in times of health crisis, covering issues such as import and export restrictions, customs and transit, public procurement and transparency are among the main pillars of the future agreement. For stronger global preparedness for future health shocks should be improved the current WTO rules applicable to trade in essential goods.

The “Ottawa Group” comprises 13 like-minded WTO partners and the discussion as well as the initial feedback from international partners will assist in defining the next steps to advance this initiative.

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