Who Sends Me Face Masks? Evidence for the Impacts of COVID-19 on International Trade in Medical Goods

Discussion Papers


by Kazunobu Hayakawa and Kohei Imai

February 2021


This study empirically investigates what kinds of countries imported and exported medical products during the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, we examine the bilateral trade values of medical products traded among 35 reporting countries and 250 partner countries between January and August in both 2019 and 2020. Specifically, we shed light on four kinds of bilateral linkages, including political ties (captured by voting similarity in the United Nations), economic ties (existence of regional trade agreements), demographic ties (numbers of migrants), and geographic ties (geographical distance). Our findings can be summarized as follows. An increase in COVID-19 burden leads to decreases in exports of medical products. However, such a decrease is smaller when exporting to countries with closer political, economic, or geographical ties. In contrast, demographic ties play a key role in the import of personal protective products. Immigrants receive face masks from relatives in their home country when the immigrant’s country of residence is strongly impacted by COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19, International trade, Medical goods

JEL classification:F15, F53

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