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IMF, WTO Warns Against Trade Restrictions Amid Covid-19

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Governments must take a bold step and avoid imposing trade restrictions on exports, particularly those of food and medical supplies, amid the global crisis caused by the coronavirus, or Covid-19, pandemic, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organsiation said in a joint statement on Friday.

"We call on governments to refrain from imposing or intensifying export and other trade restrictions and to work to promptly remove those put in place since the start of the year," the two organisations said.

"The WTO and the G20 offer two forums for global policy coordination on these important matters."

While the WTO rules allow temporary export restrictions on key items such as drugs, protective gear, and ventilators in order to address any shortage in the exporting country, both organisations urged governments to exercise caution when implementing such measures in the present circumstances."

"Taken collectively, export restrictions can be dangerously counterproductive," they warned.

"Such measures disrupt supply chains, depress production, and misdirect scarce, critical products and workers away from where they are most needed," they said.

The IMF and WTO also expressed concern regarding the decline in the supply of trade finance, food export restrictions and the travel constraints faced by the agricultural community.

World GDP is set to contract 3 percent this year, thanks to the lockdowns imposed by countries across the world to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook report released last week.

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