The Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association(GPCA), the voice of the chemical industry in the Arabian Gulf, urges global governments and international legislators to work closely together to make sure the uninterrupted supply of raw materials used for the manufacture of medical and hygiene equipment that are absolutely essential to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
In spite of facing important supply chain disruptions, the GCC chemical industry has stepped up efforts to protect the supply of raw materials for the manufacture of products used to enable the hygiene, testing and treatment of patients suffering from the virus alongside personal protective equipment for medical staff, as well as making sure the constant manufacturing of required food packaging material. However, trade tariffs imposed prior to the start of the crisis and in the wake of increasing global protectionism since mid-2018, blended with border closures in some countries are proving it difficult for chemical raw materials to reach production plants throughout the globe where finished products are made.
GPCA and its members are calling for the reduction of tariffs and the removal of trade barriers and all bureaucratic hurdles presently in place that pose as a significant challenge to the steady supply of chemical and petrochemical products used for the manufacture of specialized equipment and everyday products amid increased international demand.
The call comes days after world leaders pledged in a statement given during a G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders’ Summit “to make sure the flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products” and “resolve disruptions to the international supply chains”. The statement went on reiterate the G20’s commitment to a free, fair and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep markets open.
All GCC countries have consented to the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) that targets to simplify, modernize and harmonize import and export procedures and processes. As the fast spread of the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies the need for global cooperation and the removal of trade barriers, GPCA and its members are urging regulators to speed up the full implementation of the TFA during this essential time.
Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA, mentioned, “In the present crisis, the role of the chemical industry in making sure the steady and reliable supply of vital raw materials and products has never been more pronounced. As medical facilities in the region are beginning to feel the strain from the pandemic, businesses are continuing to manufacture, in difficult circumstances, the various tools, safety equipment and personal protective equipment such as sterile gloves, masks, hand sanitizers and protective clothing urgently needed to protect the health and safety of people and medical personnel.”
“At the same time, we depend on FMCG companies to continue to make sure the supply of items such as cleaning products as well as packaged food and beverages. The GCC chemicals industry is preventing the supply of raw materials to these sectors and minimizing or even removing related bureaucratic hurdles will help secure their timely supply. Eliminating tariffs on these essential products will also reduce the costs on medical facilities and GCC consumers who are already under financial strain.”
Mutlaq H. Al-Morished, Chairman, International Trade Committee, GPCA and CEO, Tasnee, added: “The COVID-19 pandemic is an international crisis that is impacting not only our health and wellbeing but also trade, businesses and livelihoods in the Arabian Gulf region and international. It is imperative that no efforts are spared to secure the robustness of the medical infrastructure within the Arabian Gulf region, while also retaining a stable socioeconomic environment.”
“With the chemical industry supporting critical value chains in the course of these hard times, GCC regulators need to deem the chemical and petrochemical industry as critical infrastructure and make sure they are not subjected to forced shutdowns in order to tackle the pandemic.”