World trade in medical products continued to expand, growing 12.4% in the first half of 2021 year-on-year, the WTO reported.
Although this was a slower increase compared to the second half of 2020 year-on-year growth of 17.1%, it still represents a 31% increase compared to trade in the first half of 2019 and is a continuation of the 16% annual growth. % in 2020.
For comparison: world trade of all products in the first half of 2021 grew sharply with a year-on-year rise of 29% year-on-year, a large recovery from the nominal contraction of -14% in the first half of 2020.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began in the second half of 2019, the medical products sector accounted for 5.4% of total world trade.
The sector’s share continued to grow and reached a value of $ 1 trillion 286,000 million (exports plus imports) in the first half of 2021, representing 6.1% of total world trade for the same period.
The growth and share of the four main groups of medical products varied over the past two years as the pandemic unfolded.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the highest growth was in personal protection products, which include face masks.
As the number of vaccinations increased, the highest year-on-year growth was 34.8% for medical supplies, which include items critical for vaccine administration (i.e. rubber gloves, syringes and needles).
Personal protection products, which had grown 44.4% in the second half of 2020 year-on-year, contracted during the first half of 2021 by -14.4 percent.
On the other hand, the year-on-year growth of critical Covid 19 products slowed to 3.1% in the first half of 2021 compared to the strong expansion of 34% in the second half of 2020.
As a percentage of all medical products, medicine has consistently accounted for more than half of the value of the medical products trade.
The other three product groups accounted for the remaining half, but the relative importance, in terms of share, varied.
Year-on-year trade growth in medical goods, by product group, 2020 S2 and 2021 S1
Personal protection products used to have the lowest share in the second half of 2019, but had the second largest share during the following half (first half of 2020), at 13.6% to 18.1%, respectively.
Medical supplies had the second highest proportion during the second half of 2019, but were surpassed by personal protection products during the first half of 2020.
However, their proportion recovered and continued to rise since widespread vaccination began. The product group currently represents almost a fifth (19.5%) of the medical articles sector.