A New Front for Nationalism: The Global Battle Against a Virus

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tags: foreign policy, politics, public health, nationalism, coronavirus


For seven decades after World War II, the notion that global trade enhances security and prosperity prevailed across major economies. When people exchange goods across borders, the logic goes, they become less likely to take up arms. Consumers gain better and cheaper products. Competition and collaboration spur innovation.

But in many countries — especially the United States — a stark failure by governments to equitably distribute the bounty has undermined faith in trade, giving way to a protectionist mentality in which goods and resources are viewed as zero-sum.

Now, the zero-sum perspective is a guiding force just as the sum in question is alarmingly limited: Potentially vital supplies of medicine are in short supply, exacerbating antagonism and distrust.

Last week, the Trump administration cited a Korean War-era law to justify banning exports of protective masks made in the United States, while ordering American companies that produce such wares overseas to redirect orders to their home market. One American company, 3M, said halting planned shipments of masks overseas would imperil health workers in Canada and Latin America. On Monday, 3M said it struck a compromise with the government that will send some masks to the United States and some overseas.

In recent weeks, Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa and Ecuador have all banned the export of protective masks. France and Germany imposed bans on masks and other protective gear, lifting them only after the European Union barred exports outside the bloc. India banned exports of respirators and disinfectants.

Britain has prohibited exports of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug now being tested for potential benefits against the virus. Hungary has banned exports of the raw material for that drug and medicines that contain it.

“The export bans are not helpful,” said Mariangela Simao, assistant director general for medicines and health products at the World Health Organization in Geneva. “It can disrupt supply chains of some products that are actually needed everywhere.”

President Trump has been especially aggressive in securing an American stockpile of hydroxychloroquine, disregarding the counsel of federal scientists who have warned that testing remains minimal, with scant evidence of benefits.


Read entire article at The New York Times

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