Commentary Type

The four horsemen of the apocalypse at the WTO

Remarks delivered at the panel "Pestilence, Famine, War...Death? The Future of Trade" at the EU @ South by Southwest Conference (EU@SXSW), Austin, Texas


Three years ago, almost to the day, on March 16, 2020, the WTO closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not to fully reopen for two years. The world had not seen a disease sicken and kill as many people since 1918. Desperately needed was information, regardless of national borders. Where were the supplies of masks to come from, personal protective equipment, medical equipment, and even soap?

Trade was essential to addressing COVID. No country could be self-sufficient in essential goods, medicines, and equipment. In fact, none were. In January and February 2020, China searched the world for pulmonary ventilators for use in Wuhan. By March, Europe was doing the same for its needs. Just this one product, ventilators, needed upward of 1500 parts from some 200 suppliers located around the world.

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