"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] WHO Director-Generals remarks for G20 trade ministers

[Date] March 30, 2020
[Source] World Health Organization
[Full text]


Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity of joining you today. 

As of this morning, more than 630,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported globally, and more than 30,000 deaths. 

As you know, the pandemic has had severe impacts on many parts of life, including the global economy and trade.

But trade is also key to bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. 

Ensuring free movement of essential health products is vital for saving lives and curbing the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Trade bans are proliferating. This is slowing the response and restricting countries from getting desperately needed supplies for diagnostic tests, protective gear for health workers, and critical equipment such as ventilators. 

Newly erected trade barriers not only create potentially catastrophic slowdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic, but for other diseases and disorders. 

The G20 countries are uniquely placed to resolve these issues. 

There are several measures you can take to scale up the production, movement and distribution of critical medical products.

First, we call on countries to work with companies to increase production of essential medical supplies, for both their domestic markets and export;

We call on companies and wholesalers not to use the current crisis to hike prices;

And to share knowledge to broaden the production base.

And to consider using compulsory licenses where patent holders cannot meet demand at affordable prices.

Second, ensure the free movement of essential health products.

We call on all countries to keep borders open and refrain from implementing any policies that could disrupt supply chains, including export bans and stockpiling;

To maintain land, air and sea cargo capacity and prioritize transport of needed medical equipment and personnel;

To create priority "green lanes" for essential goods between countries;

And to streamline customs and market authorization procedures.

Third, equitable access.  

Equity is critical.  This applies to information, innovation, essential medical equipment and supplies, as well as medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics.  

Clinical trials are now underway for both medicines to treat COVID-19, and vaccines to prevent it.

Once effective tools are developed, it's vital that we collectively coordinate the availability, affordability and distribution to ensure those who are most in need get access as soon as possible. 

Fourth, we must pay particular attention to countries in Africa and other low-income countries. Restrictive measures risk adversely impacting access to essential medical supplies for countries in Africa. We must work together to ensure we safeguard access to essential medical products for low-income countries including countries in Africa.

This pandemic reminds us that we have a shared destiny.  

None of us, none of our health systems, none of our economies, operate in a vacuum.

We are interdependent. We cannot win without solidarity.

As long as COVID-19 persists in one country, it is a threat to all of us.

I thank you.