OTTAWA - A C.D. Howe Institute working group says Canada must invest in robust international relationships, strategic reserves of critical goods such as personal protective equipment and capabilities to help deal with the public health and economic crisis due to COVID-19.

At its recent meeting, the group observed "a worrisome tide of export restrictions on critical goods internationally" from 80 countries, including the U.S., Australia, as well as some in Europe.

An example is U.S. President Donald Trump's initial efforts to prohibit the export of surgical masks.

The group suggests Canada temporarily reduce import tariffs on critical supplies, including agricultural products, reduce the risk of novel coronavirus disruptions in essential sectors such as food processing plants, and address interprovincial trade barriers.

It recommends Canadian governments identify gaps in critical goods, build national stockpiles and establish domestic capacity for production.

The group says Canadians should prepare for less variety and higher costs of fresh and imported products with food prices increasing by 10 to 15 per cent.

It says Canadian farms may face labour shortages over the coming growing season because of reduced numbers of foreign agricultural workers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2020.

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