LONDON (Reuters) – Tensions between Britain and the European Union over the supply of COVID-19 vaccines show how the world deserves a “failing” grade for its past efforts to prepare for unexpected shocks, OECD chief Angel Gurria said on Tuesday.
Gurria, a former Mexican finance minister who has headed the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for 15 years, said countries had done too little to ensure supply chains would remain robust in a crisis.
“We don’t get a very high grade. We basically get a ‘failing’ grade,” he said.
The European Union has threatened to restrict vaccine exports after manufacturers in the bloc prioritised orders placed by Britain, which approved vaccines sooner and has rolled them out more effectively so far.
“It’s a very dramatic example of how unprepared we were,” Gurria said, adding that he expected the EU vaccination programme to catch up in the coming weeks and tensions with Britain to ease.
“You need to talk things out a lot better from the very beginning, rather than standing at the end of the line with your cheque,” he said.
Gurria was speaking at the launch of an OECD report, requested by Britain, to encourage countries to boost their economic resilience in a wide range of areas.
The world’s seven biggest advanced economies, the G7, should commit to dialogue before imposing export restrictions and set up a body to cooperate on essential supplies, spikes in demand and production capacity during future crises, the OECD said.
Mark Sedwill, a British former security official who headed the country’s civil service until July, is leading London’s push to focus more on resilience during Britain’s G7 presidency.
“We all understand the political pressures at a time like this. But threats to disrupt those supply chains are counterproductive – counterproductive actually for those concerned as well as for other countries,” he said.
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Dan Grebler)