Member countries of the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO) have eliminated customs duties on over 84 percent of medical products for 2020 under their various regional trade agreements (RTAs), according to a report. India is a member of the WTO since 1995. There are a total of 164 members of this organisation, which deals with global trade-related issues.
The share of exports by the world's top-10 exporters of medical products to their RTA partners ranges from between 27 percent for China to almost 75 percent for Italy, the WTO has said in the report.
Majority of the top-10 traders in such products are EU member states.
It said that in developing and least-developed countries, average customs duties for all the member nations and preferential rates (under free trade agreements) are higher, especially for medical supplies, medicines and PP (personal protection) products.
"WTO members have eliminated tariffs on over 84 percent of medical products for 2020 under their various RTAs," it said.
Several medical devices like ventilators and masks are in huge demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
India has also put certain restrictions on exports of such products to maintain domestic availability.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for greater cooperation and efforts to reduce barriers to trade, including through increased mutual recognition agreements (MRAs)," the WTO said.
With the current supply shortages of certain medical and sanitary products caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this report looks at the manner in which such products are treated in RTAs and the extent to which they are traded between RTA partners.
"The top-10 exporters of medical products, which account for almost 75 percent of global exports of these products, are all parties to RTAs. Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK (all of which are currently party to the EU customs union) are party to 44 RTAs, Switzerland to 31, the US to 14 and China to 15," it said.