The coronavirus disease (COVID-19), an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, emerged in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Since then, it has spread to over 190 countries and territories, resulting in hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases and tens of thousands of deaths as of the end of March 2020. The pandemic has had significant economic consequences, including the threat of a deep worldwide recession, the interruption of global supply chains, and fluctuations in demand for products ranging from food to medicines and household items.
A number of governments have responded to the severe challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak by implementing measures to facilitate or regulate foreign trade activities. The governments’ purpose in instituting these measures is to combat the spread of the virus and provide for the safety of their populations by attempting to ensure adequate supply of items such as pharmaceuticals, personal protective gear, and medical equipment.
Trade Facilitation Measures
Governments have adopted measures to facilitate trade in order to secure or provide other governments with assistance in procuring useful medical supplies, to spur domestic production of necessary items, and to stimulate national economies. Trade facilitation measures have included efforts:
- To eliminate restrictions on trade in specified medical items, as seen, for example, in India and within the internal market of the European Union (EU);
- To reduce or eliminate duties on imports of medical supplies, as the United States and Myanmar (Burma) have done;
- To streamline and simplify the customs controls that apply to imports of relevant goods, which Chile, China, Russia, and other countries have implemented; and
- To adopt domestic stimulus packages to encourage production of necessary items (as in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia) or to mitigate economic damage (as in Egypt and Indonesia).
Trade Restrictions and Prohibitions
In their responses to the persistent cross-border spread of the virus, governments have restricted or prohibited exports of goods and services that could protect or sustain the domestic population, such as medical equipment, disinfectants, and food, as well as trade in items that could contribute further to the pandemic, such as animals.
There are numerous examples of these types of trade regulatory measures. India, Romania, and the United Kingdom are examples of countries whose governments banned exports of medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients. China prohibited trade in non-aquatic wild animals (thought to be related to the origin of the virus), while Vietnam restricted rice exports and Russia prohibited exports of grain.
The number of countries with COVID-19-related trade restrictions and prohibitions increased dramatically from January to March 2020. In January and early February, trade restrictions were relatively limited, as a handful of countries banned imports of animals and agricultural products from China and some (generally located in close proximity to the outbreak, such as Taiwan, Thailand, and India) restricted exports of medical equipment. Many other countries followed in late February and March with export controls to conserve equipment and supplies. As of March 31, 2020, over 50 countries had restricted or prohibited trade activities in an effort to combat the spread of the virus.
Trade Regulatory Changes in Response to COVID-19, January-March 2020
As of March 31, 2020, governments that have changed their foreign trade regulations in response to the COVID-19 threat include the following. This list may not be exhaustive. Furthermore, while SECURUS has sought to be as accurate as possible in providing the summaries of regulatory changes, there may be some inaccuracies due to the inherently dynamic situation and limitations on available information.
• March 8, 2020: Imposed authorization requirements on exports of drugs, medical devices, bandages, toilet paper, breathing devices, and face masks.
• March 22, 2020: Temporarily suspended exports of specified food items (such as meats, milk and cream, vegetables, fruits, coffee, rice, and bread), vaccines, test kits, medicines, hygiene products, soaps, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical equipment.
• March 18, 2020: Established automatic licensing procedures for imports of critical medical products such as disinfectants, cleaning and hygiene articles, and some chemical products.
• March 20, 2020: Imposed permit requirements on exports of oxygen therapy devices and their parts and accessories.
• March 28, 2020: Imposed permit requirements on exports of 29 different medical products, including ethyl alcohol, paracetamol, surgical and disposable gloves, and protective clothing.
• January 26, 2020: Banned the importation of animal products and raw materials from China and animal products produced in other countries with raw materials of Chinese origin.
• March 18, 2020: Prohibited exportation of disposable face masks, gloves, gowns, goggles, alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, and other items; exceptions apply to manufacturers of the goods, exports not by post, exports in the ordinary course of a person’s business, and other circumstances.
• March 14, 2020: Established 2 billion euro guarantee scheme for exporting companies under existing limits for export credits; up to 15 billion euros more are to be made available to companies in the export sector.
• January 28, 2020: Temporarily banned the import of livestock, animal products, seafood, and wild animals for zoos from China in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
• March 22, 2020: Suspended temporarily duties and taxes on imports of 12 types of medical supplies, including protective equipment, test kits, and disinfectants; the policy is in effect until June 30.
• March 23, 2020: Announced “survival” stimulus package, including an increase in foreign reserves for import cover.
• March 18, 2020: Prohibited until June 1 exports of medical supplies, including disposable overalls and hazmat suits, respirators, surgical gowns, masks, shoe wrappers, bandages, cotton wool, gauze, and gloves.
• March 25, 2020: Adopted royal decree providing the government with the authority to enact measures to combat the virus, contain its spread, and limit its consequences; this may include restricting or prohibiting the exportation of a drug or raw material.
• March 24, 2020: Temporarily banned imports of fruits, vegetables, areca nuts, and betel leaf because of inability to disinfect the items.
• March 18, 2020: Reduced duties to 0% for imports of medical supplies identified as indispensable for use in health care services.
• March 19, 2020: Imposed special export license requirements on products to combat COVID-19, including ethyl alcohol, disinfectants, reagents, PPE, medical equipment, and respirators.
• March 23, 2020: Suspended import licensing requirements for selected medical products, including reagents, syringes, and plastic tubes for collecting blood.
• March 24, 2020: Imposed prior authorization requirements on the export of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin and its salts devoted to the efforts against COVID-19.
• March 19, 2020: Announced six-month fiscal interim measures that include deferment of principal repayments of financing and loans for importers of food and medical supplies.
• March 8, 2020: Banned the export of face masks and other types of protective gear.
• March 20, 2020: Banned the export of quinine-based medicines.
• March 23, 2020: Imposed licensing requirement on exports of PPE and disinfectants and their derivatives.
• March 30, 2020: Suspended exports of white rice and paddy rice, effective April 5, in order to ensure local food security.
• February 13, 2020: Banned imports of all food products from China.
• March 13, 2020: Approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the free trade regime that is to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), after lawmakers dropped opposition prior to a suspension of Parliament caused by concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
• March 16, 2020: Waived tariffs and sales taxes on all goods, including essential medical supplies and PPE, imported by or on behalf of public health agencies, hospitals and testing sites, and first response organizations.
• March 27, 2020: Announced decision to defer payment deadlines for customs duties and goods and services tax (GST) for March, April, and May to June 30, 2020.
• February 11, 2020: Suspended penalties such as fines and surcharges for companies shipping to China that modify departure documents or redirect shipments to other destinations.
• March 18, 2020: Adopted measures to facilitate foreign trade, including an expansion of permissible electronic communications between traders and the National Customs Service and electronic document processing.
• March 26, 2020: Expedited customs clearance for imports of critical medical supplies donated to or coordinated by the Ministry of Health or donated by foreign partners and charitable institutions.
• January 24, 2020: Expedited customs clearance for imports of epidemic prevention materials (medical masks, gloves, disinfectant, and infrared thermometers) from January 24-29.
• February 24, 2020: Temporarily banned trade and consumption of non-aquatic wild animals with severe penalties for violators. There are exceptions for wild animals used for traditional Chinese medicinal purposes, subject to observation and quarantine. The National People’s Congress is to meet later this year to consider amendments to the Wildlife Protection Law.
• March 20, 2020: Increased tax rebates for China exporters for 1,464 products, expedited customs clearance for imports of material and parts to be used in the resumption of domestic industrial production, and exempted imports by health authorities of epidemic prevention and control materials from customs duties (Shanghai).
• March 30, 2020 (reported on this date): Implemented enhanced risk assessment measures for inbound flights and ships and deployed additional testing equipment and reagents to detect possible cases of COVID-19. Expedited customs clearance for pork imports for Wuhan residents. Required all non-essential goods that have been loaded on vessels for export after March 27 to be unloaded, in response to global lockdowns on imports of many goods; the export suspension is thought to last one to two months.
• March 16, 2020: Instituted 0% tariffs for imports of critical medical products in over 100 different tariff sub-headings.
• March 22, 2020: Prohibited exports and re-exports of 24 products necessary to respond to the emergency, including alcohol, soap, toilet paper, and face masks, for a six-month period.
• March 18, 2020: Imposed controls on exports and re-exports of medical supplies, including safety glasses, N95 and FFP2 respirators, disposable surgical masks, and gloves, effective until the end of the emergency.
• March 20, 2020: Temporarily suspended payment of value-added tax (VAT) and import duties.
• March 27, 2020: Banned the export of all medicines to ensure domestic supply.
• March 4, 2020: Banned the export of FFP3-class respirator masks outside the Czech Republic and set controls on their prices to ensure domestic availability where needed.
• March 6, 2020: Banned the export of hand disinfectants by non-producers, “except for a reasonable amount for personal use.”
• March 17, 2020: Banned the distribution of authorized medicinal products intended for the market in the Czech Republic to other EU Member States as well as the export of such items to non-EU countries.
• March 23, 2020: Instituted 0% tariffs for imports of medical equipment and supplies.
• February 9, 2020: Temporarily suspended imports of garlic, carrots, and green ginger from China.
• March 14, 2020: Announced stimulus package that includes enhanced subsidy pay-out for exporters.
• March 19, 2020: Banned the export of infection prevention supplies such as face masks and alcohol in order to preserve domestic supply; illegal exports are punishable by seven years in prison.
• March 20, 2020: Exempted from import duties any imports of goods made by beneficiaries of the Law of Industrial Free Zones and Marketing that are to be donated to the national government, municipal councils, or other entities providing community services or public assistance and which are to benefit persons affected by the emergency. Also, reduced to 0% import duties on red beans, wheat flour, corn, rice, vegetables, soap, and detergents.
• March 23, 2020: Exempted from import duties any imports of goods that constitute humanitarian aid and which are delivered to the national government or municipal councils and destined for the population affected by the emergency.
• March 26, 2020: Temporarily restricted exports and re-exports of red beans.
European Union (EU)
• March 7, 2020: Requested that Member States lift export bans on medical equipment so that protective gear could be distributed throughout the EU.
• March 15, 2020: Issued Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/402 imposing licensing requirements on exports of PPE such as gloves, masks, and protective clothing used by health care providers in order to secure European domestic supply. On March 20, the EU established exemptions for exports to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and certain other destinations, and it was clarified that the restriction does not apply to exports to the UK.
• March 20, 2020: Expanded lending and guarantee capacity to small and medium-size exporters by 10 billion euros.
• March 3, 2020: Adopted order enabling the government to requisition FFP2 face masks in France and projection masks held by manufacturers or producers of the items in order to secure their supply.
• March 13, 2020: Extended the requisition to other types of face masks, including surgical masks and N95 masks, held by manufacturers or distributers.
• March 24, 2020: Suspended exports of specified essential commodities: rice, maize, millet, flour, chicken, sugar, milk, bread, egg, meat, fish, cooking oil, onions, tomato paste, cement, potatoes, soap, and sanitizers.
• January 27, 2020: Banned the import of live animals from China to prevent spread of the virus.
• March 4, 2020: Prohibited the export (shipment to non-EU countries) and transfer (shipment to EU Member States) of medical protective equipment such as safety glasses, respiratory masks, protective suits, and gloves. Exports or transfers could occur, however, under the approval of the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) under “exceptional” circumstances. The purpose was to “counteract a threat to meeting essential domestic needs.”
• March 12, 2020: Relaxed the conditions under which BAFA could issue a license for exports or transfers of medical protective equipment. In particular, it allowed BAFA to approve exports or transfers of the identified goods in connection with coordinated international aid operations or to help other EU Member States or members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) meet their essential needs and thus protect the health and life of people. It also introduced a “hardship clause” for exports to third [non-EU] countries.
• March 19, 2020: Lifted the German national restriction on exports of protective equipment in light of the adoption of the EU-wide ban on exports of medical protective equipment to countries outside the EU, except with approval. Transfers of German protective equipment to other EU Members and certain other countries no longer require a license.
• March 25, 2020: Exempted from VAT and customs duties all imports received as donations for the National Coordination for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala and registered churches, organizations, and charitable associations.
• March 27, 2020: Announced expedited customs clearance via the green channel (quick-release channel) for imports of products to combat COVID-19.
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)
• March 18, 2020: Announced an HK$1.5 billion subsidy scheme to encourage domestic mask production.
• March 26, 2020: Banned the commercial export of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and drugs in which it is an active ingredient.
• January 31, 2020: Prohibited exports of PPE, including masks and coveralls.
• February 8, 2020: Lifted prohibition on exports of PPE, including clothing and N95 masks.
• February 25, 2020: Lifted prohibitions on exports of a range of medical items, including surgical/disposable masks (2/3 ply), gloves, surgical blades, and gas masks.
• March 3, 2020: Restricted exports of 26 different pharmaceutical ingredients, medicines, and vitamins.
• March 19, 2020: Prohibited exports of ventilators, surgical/disposable masks (2/3 ply), and textile raw material for masks and coveralls.
• March 25, 2020: Banned the export of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which some evidence has indicated may be effective in treating COVID-19, in order to ensure existing orders can be filled.
• March 26, 2020: Established Helpdesk at the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for export and import issues related to the coronavirus.
• February 14, 2020: Temporarily banned imports of over 50 different types of live animals from China in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
• March 13, 2020: Announced economic stimulus package that includes deferral of import tax payments for companies in 19 different industries. Also, as part of a non-fiscal stimulus package, Indonesia reduced the number of export restrictions, simplified restrictions on imports of steel, alloy steel and its derivatives, food, medicine, and animals, and announced that firms could postpone payments of import VAT starting April 1 and lasting for six months.
• March 18, 2020: Banned exports of face masks, antiseptics, and protective gear such as surgical clothing in order to secure sufficient domestic supply; the ban is in effect until June 30, 2020. Also, temporarily eliminated import certification requirements for imports of onions and garlic.
• March 23, 2020: Temporarily eliminated import certification requirements for imports of face masks and PPE.
• March 10, 2020: Banned exports of face masks, scrubs, medical gloves, bleach, disinfectants, soap, related sanitary products, detergents, disinfectant liquids, alcohol, pumps, spray taps, certain textile and cellulose products, tissues, sanitary napkins, and paper products in order to meet domestic demand.
• March 17, 2020: Lifted ban on ethanol imports for producers of sanitizers and disinfectants.
• February 25, 2020: Adopted law requiring companies to prioritize orders from Italian civil authorities for medical equipment and to obtain the authorization of the Italian Department of Civil Protection to export protective equipment, ventilators, and ventilator parts; the law also provided for the exemption of PPE imports from customs duties.
• March 17, 2020: Imposed exceptional measures on the expropriation or requisition, manufacture, importation, and commercialization of protective masks and other PPE. Additionally, the Italian Customs Agency established expedited clearance measures for imports of surgical masks to be used as PPE and items intended for medical research, medical diagnoses, or medical treatment that are donated by a charitable or philanthropic organization or a private individual to health authorities, hospitals, or medical research institutions.
• February 14, 2020: Provided for extensions of the periods of validity of import certificates, customs quota certificates, and export licenses and deadlines for fulfillment of export license conditions; the special measures establishing these provisions were amended on March 5.
• March 4, 2020: Granted priority clearance for imports and exports of relief supplies, exempted imports of relief supplies from customs duties and consumption tax, and simplified declarations for exports of relief supplies.
• February 2, 2020: Temporarily banned imports of all animal and plant-based products from China.
• February 20, 2020: Banned the export of PPE.
• March 22, 2020: Banned the export of “socially significant food products,” including buckwheat, wheat and rye flour, sugar, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, onions, cabbages, sunflower seeds, and oil, to secure domestic supply. The ban is effective until at least April 15, 2020. Kazakhstan also reduced the VAT on agricultural products and imposed 0% duty on imports of critical food products.
• March 30, 2020: Announced that it would replace the prohibition on wheat exports with monthly quota restrictions.
• March 3, 2020: Banned local manufacturers and distributors from exporting N95 and 3-ply surgical masks “to ensure that the country has enough stock as part of its emergency plan.”
• March 26, 2020: Suspended the importation of second-hand clothing (mitumba) over concerns of virus spread.
• March 12, 2020: Prohibited the export of medicine and material from Kosovo pharmaceutical producers, except when approved by a government decision.
• March 24, 2020: Removed VAT on imports of wheat and flour.
• January 24, 2020: Banned imports of meat from China.
• March 22, 2020: Prohibited exports of selected food items, including wheat, wheat flour, cooking oil, rice, chicken eggs, sugar, and iodized table salt; also, temporarily banned exports of disinfectants.
• February 22, 2020: Banned the export of medical devices, equipment, and medical PPE.
• February 14, 2020: Temporarily restricted exports of medical products, including face masks, to ensure adequate domestic supply.
• February 27, 2020: Announced the Economic Stimulus Package 2020, which includes exemptions from sales tax and import duties for imports of equipment and machinery for port operators.
• March 17, 2020: Banned the export of 1 ply (ear loop) face mask (surgical/medical), 2 ply (ear loop) face mask (surgical/medical), 3 ply (ear loop/head loop/head tie-on) face mask (surgical/medical), and N95 face masks.
• March 24, 2020: Exempted from import duties purchases of medical and laboratory equipment, PPE, and disposable products by parties donating to the Ministry of Health to combat COVID-19, as well as imports for the purpose of donating or gifting the items to a federal or state government department; letters of endorsement from the relevant government agencies are required.
• March 16, 2020: Temporarily banned imports of live animals from China, the EU, Iran, South Korea, and other specified countries.
• March 23, 2020: Announced swap arrangement (short-term reciprocal cash flows) for import-oriented businesses.
• March 27, 2020: Announced tax exemptions on several imported food items, pending parliamentary approval in April.
• March 5, 2020: Imposed a license requirement on the export of medical masks in order to secure domestic supply.
• March 16, 2020: Implemented new digital measures for importers and exporters as part of the online PortNet National Single Window for Foreign Trade.
• March 27, 2020: Extended a December 2019 suspension of import duties on soft wheat to June 15 and announced that import duties on durum, lentils, chickpeas, beans, and broad beans would be suspended on April 1.
• March 17, 2020: Suspended advance tax on exports to lessen the damage to the national economy by the virus.
• March 18, 2020: Suspended labor exports (sending workers abroad) due to viral outbreak concerns.
• March 22, 2020: Banned exports of medicines, masks, and sanitizers.
• March 31, 2020: Prohibited imports of luxury vehicles and expensive edibles, including dates and alcoholic beverages, in order to prevent depletion of foreign currency reserves.
• Late March: Eliminated customs duties on imports of health and medical equipment.
• March 28, 2020: Temporarily lifted tariffs on imports of medical and hygiene products, starting with testing kits and soap.
• March 11, 2020: Announced plan to ban importation of hand sanitizers in order to bolster local production.
• March 25, 2020: Eliminated import duties on medical supplies, including ethyl alcohol, hydroxychloroquine, soaps, detergents, gloves, and plastic masks.
• January 30, 2020: Banned exports of face masks.
• February 8, 2020: Banned imports of all types of animals and birds in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
• March 23, 2020: Exempted from import duties 61 different diagnostic support and medical products, including certain face masks, autoclaves, pumps, coronavirus test kits, and X-ray machines, in order to combat increasing domestic market prices.
• March 24, 2020: Banned the export of onions and PPE (N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, other face masks, hand sanitizers, biohazard bags, goggles, disposable gloves, and gowns). The government also announced an economic relief plan that includes elimination of duties on imports of emergency health equipment and accelerated tax refunds for exporters.
• March 19, 2020: Temporarily expanded the range of documents that can be submitted to Customs electronically and eliminated import duties on specified medical items and PPE.
• March 23, 2020: Implemented temporary procedure for importation of merchandise, including food, medicine, clothing, blankets, and vaccines, for relief aid and humanitarian assistance.
• March 18, 2020: Lowered VAT and eliminated import duties on medical supplies, raw materials, personal hygiene products, and cleaning items.
• March 24, 2020: Announced that customs procedures would be digitized at the national level for safety reasons.
• March 12, 2020: Temporarily eliminated tariffs on imports of 65 tariff classifications. These include both consumer and intermediate goods, such as anesthetics, hydrochloric acid, metal tubular needles, cancer treatment products, and cotton and bandages for medical use. These regulations will remain in place for 90 days.
• March 23, 2020: Expedited clearance process for imports of medical equipment, including ventilators and respirators.
• March 23, 2020: Exempted imports of 905 different food, medical, and personal protection items from customs duties for six months.
• March 12, 2020: Suspended the export of medicines and other health products to ensure domestic supply for six months.
• January 29, 2020: Temporarily banned imports of exotic and ornamental animals from China.
• February 20, 2020: Temporarily banned imports of animal products, including meat products, from China.
• March 2, 2020: Banned the export of 17 types of equipment, including face masks, plastic shoe covers, gloves, surgical scrubs, gas masks, hazmat suits, and “reusable anti-plague” suits to ensure supply. The ban lasts until June 1, 2020.
• March 20, 2020: Lifted all restrictions on imports of essential goods for one month, introduced a customs green channel for importers and large retail chains, and set a 0% customs duty rate for imports of items such as medicines and medical devices.
• March 23, 2020: Banned the export of all kinds of grains for 10 days.
• March 20, 2020: Passed a new stimulus package that includes exemptions on expatriate levies, postpones some private-sector fee payments to the government, and postpones the collection of customs duties on imports, among other things. Also banned the export of medicines, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices in order to fight the domestic spread of the virus.
• March 14, 2020: Banned exports of flour, oil, semi-processed oil, whole sunflower seeds, sugar, and sanitizers.
• March 16, 2020: Prohibited the export of all medicines for 30 days in order to ensure domestic supply.
• March 31, 2020: Exempted imports of ethyl alcohol from customs duties until May 1.
• March 27, 2020: Exempted from VAT imports of essential goods, including food, cleaning and hygiene products, medical supplies, and fuel.
• February 27, 2020: Required manufacturers of face masks to reduce mask exports to less than 10% of their total production and to supply no more than half of production to government-designated sellers.
• March 5, 2020: Assumed control of production, logistics, and distribution of face masks and banned their exportation.
Southern African Customs Union
• March 27, 2020: Temporarily banned exports of disinfectants, PPE, reagents, and other medical items.
• March 17, 2020: Extended up to 2 billion euro public guarantees for exporters through the Spanish Export Insurance Credit Company.
• March 18, 2020: Eliminated customs duties and other taxes on imports of face masks and disinfectants.
• March 17-20, 2020: Announced fiscal package that includes increases in the Swedish Export Credit Agency credit guarantee framework and the Swedish Export Credit Corporation credit framework.
• March 25, 2020: Imposed temporary licensing requirements on the export of PPE such as masks, gloves, and goggles as well as swabs in order to prevent shortages; exceptions apply with respect to EU and EFTA countries.
• January 23, 2020: Imposed permit requirement on the export of surgical and N95 respirator masks for a month to secure supply; the ban was later extended to April 30.
• February 3, 2020: Temporarily lifted permit requirements for importers of surgical masks that do not hold a pharmaceutical license in order to combat a mask shortage.
• March 4, 2020: Imposed permit requirements on exports of infrared forehead thermometers, ear thermometers, infrared thermal imaging cameras, and all types of digital thermometers until the end of March.
• March 12, 2020: Relaxed permit requirements for exports of face masks without a filter as factory production increased; the permit exception was to be in place from March 12 to April 30.
• March 30, 2020: Lifted ban on exports of infrared forehead thermometers after increase in domestic production; announced that the ban on face masks would be relaxed slightly starting April 9 to allow people to send 30 face masks per shipment to first- and second-degree relatives overseas.
• February 5, 2020: Banned the export of face masks to ensure domestic supply, though several exceptions applied; the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) could enable exports to neighboring countries through government-to-government channels.
• March 3, 2020: Tightened the ban on exports of face masks, and the government assumed complete control of mask retail prices, production volume, export, and import.
• March 10, 2020: Exempted materials for face masks from import VAT.
• March 26, 2020: Banned exports of eggs for a week because of domestic shortage caused by the COVID-19 crisis; on March 31 it was announced that the ban would be extended a month.
• February 7, 2020: Banned imports of livestock and animal fats from China.
• March 4, 2020: Imposed tight restrictions on the export of medical protective gear, requiring authorization to export masks, gloves, protective gowns, and goggles.
• March 18, 2020: Imposed prior authorization requirements on exports of ethyl alcohol, cologne, disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide, and meltblown fabric; introduced “Economic Stability Shield” program, which includes inventory financing support for exporters.
• March 25, 2020: Removed import tariffs on ethyl alcohol, disposable medical masks, and medical ventilators.
• March 26, 2020: Imposed prior authorization requirements on exports of ventilators, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation equipment, ventilation consumables, intubation tubes, and intensive care monitors.
• March 31, 2020: The Central Bank of Turkey extended Turkish lira-denominated rediscount credits for export and foreign exchange earning services to exporters of goods and services.
• March 3, 2020: Temporarily banned the importation of pets and wild carnivores from China in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in Ukraine.
• March 10, 2020: Banned the export of 10 different medical products, including medical masks and gloves, until early June to aid in combating the spread of the virus.
• March 23, 2020: Banned the export of ethanol.
• March 24, 2020: Exempted medicines and medical devices used to prevent or combat COVID-19 from import duties and VAT.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
• March 12, 2020: Issued stimulus package that includes partial refund of customs duties on imported goods sold locally and reduction of customs clearance fees.
• March 13, 2020: Banned parallel exportation and hoarding of three medicines in anticipation of domestic shortages. Parallel exportation refers to the purchase by a wholesaler or retailer of a product in excess of what the entity needs for the purpose of selling the excess to other wholesalers or retailers.
• March 20, 2020: Banned parallel export of 80 additional vital drugs to protect domestic supply.
• March 5, 2020: Granted Section 301 tariff exclusions to imports of selected Chinese medical products, including face masks, hand sanitizing wipes, and examination gloves.
• March 12, 2020: The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) announced relief measures for U.S. exporters and financial institutions for 30 days. The measures include waivers, deadline extensions, streamlined processing, and flexibility for the Working Capital Guarantee Program, the Multi-Buyer and Single-Buyer Short-Term Insurance Program, and Medium-Term Single-Buyer Insurance Policies Issued to Exporters.
• March 20, 2020: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it would approve “on a case by case basis” additional days for payment of estimated duties, taxes, and fees. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) also announced that it was no longer applying Section 301 tariffs to some “critical products” from China such as ventilators and oxygen masks.
• March 23, 2020: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new instructions for submission of entry information for PPE, ventilators, other respiratory devices, and other medical products in order to facilitate imports of the items.
• March 23, 2020: Suspended taxes on imports and exports of assistance items and called upon Customs to simplify clearance procedures for such shipments.
• March 26, 2020: Customs adopted simplified customs clearance procedures to facilitate import and export of goods to combat the spread of the virus.
• March 27, 2020: Announced temporary lifting of customs duties on imports of selected medicines and medical products.
• March 25, 2020: Halted new rice export contracts until the end of the month, amid concerns about sufficient domestic supply; Vietnam Customs stopped clearing rice export shipments to ensure food security.
• March 27, 2020: Announced that it would suspend import duties on mineral concentrates, VAT on imports of spare parts, lubricants, and stationary, and export duties on precious metals in order to ease pressure on the economy.
Future Virus-Related Trade Regulatory Changes
In upcoming months governments around the world likely will continue to adjust their trade regulations in response to the public health and safety, national security, and economic challenges posed by the spread of the virus.
Many of the measures that have been instituted to date are temporary and are set to expire between April and June 2020. However, it is likely that governments will extend their restrictions and bans on medical equipment and protective gear if the quarantine and isolation policies currently in place are not effective in preventing the further spread of the virus and domestic production of necessary items is inadequate to meet countries’ needs.
As the pandemic continues, it is also likely that governments will continue to relax controls on imports of necessary medical equipment and pursue measures to stimulate international trade in an effort to support suffering economies. These may include additional measures to streamline and expedite customs controls, reduce or eliminate tariffs, duties, and value-added taxes, and promote exports, particularly in countries where foreign trade plays a significant role in the economy.
Last, the greater penetration of the virus into Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Oceania may result in additional rounds of trade restrictions and prohibitions as governments in those regions attempt to preserve their domestic supplies of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and protective gear.
For additional analysis, please see the SECURUS brief “COVID-19 Global Trade Regulatory Changes, January-March 2020,” available here.
SECURUS Strategic Trade Solutions, LLC will continue to track developments in trade regulations around the world and provide useful information and analysis.
April 5, 2020; by SECURUS Managing Director Richard Glen Young, Richard.Young@SECURUSTrade.com, and Research Assistants Kevin Oney and Autumn Fredline.