The crisis seeming insufficient, the outbreak of swine flu cases in Mexico and its rapid spread to the U.S.A., Canada & Europe have presented an opportunity for some countries to use this generally non-deadly pandemic as an excuse to apply trade & tourism restrictions in their own political interests. Mexico has been the hardest hit with tourist flow curtailed both due to local requisites as well as foreign influx to its popular coastal resorts. In company with the U.S.A. and Canada, this southernmost North American country accounts for the outbreak and more than half of the infected patients as well as the few deaths. All three countries have expressed their concern as to possible isolation measures and travel restrictions imposed by other nations across the globe.
In Europe, Spain ranks first in number of ill citizens who firstly came into contact with the virus in holiday trips to the Mexican peninsula. Nevertheless, no death has been registered and the first patients have received their quarantine release. In spite of said favourable situation, Russia has just announced it shall impose an immediate ban on all imports of Spanish fresh pork and processed pork products. Spain is Russia’s first supplier of pork products. What seems annoying is that nations seem to ignore WHO indications on the swine flu risks and recommended international posture.
I have often asked myself why we have such organisations set up in the scope of the United Nations if we rarely respect the rulings and recommendations of same. Russia’s posture on Spanish pork may be the first protectionist action taken using the flu outbreak as a mere excuse for politically-oriented trade restrictions. Added to tourist restrictions suffered by Mexico, these actions may end in an extended use of protectionism with unconceivable justifications in order to shape up a close-door defensive policy to hopefully overcome a country’s economic crisis. Are we heading in that direction?
Madrid, May 4, 2009