To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, countries around the world took a variety of restrictive measures, which negatively affected international trade in goods, with a few noteworthy exceptions.
Among these are goods used in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic: sterilisation products (incl. disinfectants), medical vehicles and furniture, protective garments, diagnostic testing equipment, medical devices, oxygen equipment and medical consumables, or so called ‘COVID-19 related products’.
In 2020, extra-EU imports of COVID-19 related products increased by 10% and exports by 6% compared to 2019. In contrast, the trade in ‘other similar products’ dropped by 4% for imports and by 7% for exports.
When looking at 2020 in more detail, growth rates for trade of COVID-19 related products were higher in the first half of the year than in the second. Similarly, decreases in the trade of other similar products were more pronounced in the first half of the year, reflecting the disruption to trade in goods due to the first lockdown policies.
This information comes from recently published data on international trade in goods. This news item presents only a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.
Protective garments and oxygen equipment recorded highest increases in imports
Despite the economic downturn and a decrease in total extra-EU trade, imports increased for all types of COVID-19 related products in 2020, while exports recorded a decrease for few categories.
Among COVID-19 related products, extra-EU imports of protective garments and oxygen equipment recorded the highest increases (+40% and +39% respectively compared with 2019), followed by diagnostic equipment and sterilisation products (both around +20%).
The highest increases for extra-EU exports were recorded for sterilisation products (+16%) and diagnostic testing equipment (+15%), while the largest drop was recorded for medical vehicles and furniture (-11%).
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This news item compares COVID-19 related products to products in the same chapter of the Harmonised System (HS) product classification, i.e. they are compared to other similar products that are however not directly used in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It should be noted that most COVID-19 related products cannot be precisely identified and they are grouped together with products not specific to COVID-19. Nevertheless, some trends can be observed.
These products were selected based on an indicative list elaborated by the Commission in the framework of Commission Decision N° C(2020) 2146, on the basis of a joint WCO/WHO list for COVID-19 medical supplies. More information can be found in this document.
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