A NEW “information note” published by the WTO Secretariat highlights how trade in goods and services has been affected by border closures and travel restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The paper notes that “sweeping travel barriers” introduced in the early stages of the pandemic have given way to more fine-tuned policies aimed at allowing “essential” foreign workers, or creating quarantine-free “travel bubbles”.


Nevertheless, mobility barriers are said to have had a “particularly heavy impact” on tourism and education services, as well as on trade in goods.

The paper notes that international cooperation has a potentially important role to play in minimising the economic impact of mobility restrictions.

The report can be found here.

Key points

  • International trade and investment have always relied on the cross-border mobility of individuals.
  • To contain the spread of COVID-19, many WTO members imposed temporary border closures and travel restrictions.
  • A significant amount of services trade requires physical proximity between producers and consumers.
  • Border measures and travel restrictions have had a particularly heavy impact on sectors such as tourism and education.
  • Mobility barriers also significantly affect trade in goods, through their impact on transport services and on information and transaction costs.

“Restarting international mobility is unlikely to proceed in a linear fashion,” a WTO statement read.

“Given the crossborder spill-overs resulting from measures affecting transnational mobility, a case can be made for supplementing domestic action with international cooperative efforts,” it stated.

“WTO members may eventually wish to look into building greater preparedness and resilience for future crises, for example starting with information exchange about lessons learnt about mobility restrictions and trade.”