Chancellor Merkel, DG Azevędo and other Agency Heads Discuss COVID-19 Pandemic

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevędo took part in a virtual meeting hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 20 May to look at the health, economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic along with the international policy response. The heads of the ILO, IMF, OECD and the World Bank also attended the gathering.

Speaking after the meeting, DG Azevędo said:

“The most acute health crisis in a century has provoked the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. The social and economic impact has already been tremendous: shrinking output, massive job losses, and rising hunger. Years of hard-won development progress risk being reversed. WTO economists project that trade will fall steeply in all regions and sectors.

“Trade will be an important ingredient in the economic recovery. The dramatic fiscal and monetary measures we have seen are essential, and welcome. But trade policies must also be pulling in the same direction. Closing off trade would mean unnecessary supply shocks, slower growth, weaker productivity, higher real debt burdens, and lower living standards. Disrupting cross-border supply chains for medical equipment would make it harder and more expensive to scale up much-needed production. Trade restrictions for agricultural products risk turning a health emergency into a food emergency.

“An unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented solidarity in response — and this includes cooperation on trade. I commend Chancellor Merkel for her efforts to foster such solidarity, in Europe and around the world.”