Covid-19 and Export Restrictions: the Limits of International Trade Law and Lessons for the AfCFTA

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the deep and systemic deficiencies of the global economic regulatory system and associated national vulnerabilities at a time of great distress. Until this crisis struck, who could have thought it possible that Germany would ban the exportation, to France or Italy, of such potentially life-saving medical supplies as face masks and respirators? Who could have thought that the most successful European single market, the envy of much of the rest of the world, would fail to guarantee intra-EU trade in essential medical equipment and supplies at a time when trade literally meant saving lives? These are extraordinary times where European contracts for the purchase of Covid-19 medical supplies are being rendered “not worth the paper they were written on” because of export bans.