The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the limitations of existing trade rules in ensuring trade resilience during crises. There are two ways of including more specific and dedicated legal provisions in trade agreements to minimise the impacts from trade disruption in times of crisis: (1) amending existing chapters of trade agreements to incorporate such provisions, or (2) introducing a new and separate standalone chapter. The model chapter featured in this document provides a template for the latter case, a separate standalone chapter, which can be further tailored to meet specific needs of the Parties in actual trade agreements.
At the core of this model chapter, is the establishment of a Committee on Crisis Management to oversee the coordination and cooperation to minimise trade disruption in crisis situations. The Committee is responsible for declaring the existence of a crisis situation with a view to trigger the crisis provisions provided under this chapter. After regularly reviewing the situation, the Committee can then determine that the situation has returned to a state of normality, and the focus of cooperation activities will shift back to building up preparedness for future crises.
Instead of merely providing general exceptions for countries to take unilateral measures, this chapter provides an additional mechanism to ensure a coordinated response to crises and promote cooperation on preparing for future crises. It provides for specific rights and obligations for trade in crisis situations, helping to reduce uncertainties and keep trade flowing during crises. The provisions in this model chapter are designed to ensure that trade restrictive measures taken in response to a crisis are targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary. In particular, the provisions are very much focused on ensuring the supply of essential goods and services during a crisis through maintaining associated trade facilitation and coordination measures.