World Trade Organization

To contain the spread of COVID-19, governments have introduced temporary travel and mobility restrictions. While they are driven by public health considerations, these measures have significant trade implications, as human mobility across borders is a key facilitator of trade in goods and services, and an important type of services trade in its own right.

It is also becoming evident that restarting the international mobility of individuals will prove much harder than it was to stop it. The resumption of international travel is unlikely to proceed in a linear fashion. Measures affecting trans-national mobility have obvious cross-border spill-overs, which means there is a case to be made for supplementing domestic action with international cooperative efforts.

After the pandemic begins to recede, WTO members may wish to look back at their responses and their effects on trade. To better prepare for future crises, they could, for example, consider exchanging information on their experiences with travel restrictions and their trade implications, and sharing lessons they may have drawn. This exercise could help governments identify ways to implement travel measures that meet public health protection objectives while keeping trade- distortive effects to a minimum. G20 trade ministers have suggested developing voluntary guidelines for cross-border travel for this and future public health emergencies.


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