The United Nations inter-agency project "Transport and trade connectivity in the age of pandemics: Contactless, seamless and collaborative UN solutions" project responds to a call to action, for the immediate health response required to suppress transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
From the transport perspective, COVID-19 not only poses a severe global health threat, it also represents a supply and a demand shock. Different measures were undertaken by countries in Asia Pacific to contain the pandemic pose operational challenges of movement of goods on both national and international level, adversely disrupting international transport connectivity and logistics supply chain network.
The fragmented policy responses immediately following the outbreak suggest that there may not be sufficient cooperation mechanisms in place in Asia and the Pacific to ensure that cross-border trade and transport take place as smoothly as possible in times of pandemic or other similar cross-border emergencies.
Having faced the pandemic crisis in 2020, most of ESCAP member States had to urgently issue ad-hoc policies and domestic regulations in attempts to prevent or limit the spread of COVID-19 disease through their borders, often without warning or consulting their counterparts. These measures and policies were introduced and implemented often in breach of the rules for international transportation established under international legal instruments.
This situation showcased that existing legal instruments covering international carriage of goods and passengers may lack provisions on cooperation while dealing with critical situations such as the current crisis or other potential extraordinary situations which may be disrupting the usual way of operation of international supply and logistics chains.
In this context, with a view to elaborate recommendations on coordinated response for potential future crises, the UNESCAP secretariat, under the above-mentioned project, took stock of the current bilateral and multilateral agreements on international road transport in Asia and the Pacific Region, analyzing, in particular, the availability of clauses related to crisis response and mutual assistance in emergency situations in those agreements. of information and may be subsequently updated.
The key findings of this analysis are summarized in this study. They were presented at a regional webinar organized in January 2021 to discuss this matter, collect feedback, and identify way forward in terms of modification of the existing agreements on road transport in the Asia-Pacific region and formulation of new agreements, taking into account the necessity of elaborating clauses on mutual assistance in the event of future potential external shocks and emergencies affecting international road transport operations.
The recommendations, based on the feedback from the regional webinar, namely the proposed Model Annex on force majeure clause, are also included into this study report.