The updated note indicates that trade in medical goods accounts for 6.1% of total world trade compared to 5.4% for the second half of 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
The total imports and exports of medical goods were valued at $1.286 billion in the first half of 2021. This represents a growth of 12.4% compared to the same period of 2020.
As vaccination numbers increased, the highest year-on-year growth was for medical supplies, including items critical for administering vaccines such as rubber gloves, syringes and needles, which grew by 34.8%.
In the first half of 2021, the medical goods sector comprised 6.1% of total world trade, compared to 5.4% for the second half of 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic. The supply of these items, especially rubber gloves, is geographically concentrated, and any potential for disruption should be identified and planned for. Four of the top five suppliers were countries in Asia and accounted for 85% of the export market for gloves, with Malaysia’s share at 54%.
Average applied most-favored-nation (MFN) tariffs for rubber gloves by WTO members was 8.2%, but syringes and needles had lower tariffs, at under than 4%. Lowering or eliminating these tariffs will reduce import costs and facilitate vaccine administration.