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Initiative on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and other Trade Agreements

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Following the raft of ad-hoc trade measures taken by countries in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations ESCAP secretariat conducted a rapid review of bilateral and regional trade agreement (RTA) texts to see if they provided any guidance on what partners should do to ensure minimal disruption to trade and supply chains in such crises. As expected, RTAs include clauses in order to permit exception to the agreements in time of emergencies; but for the most part they do not feature provisions that could help deal with trade disruption in emergency or crisis situations. To address this gap and in support of “building back better” after COVID-19, the initiative aims to develop model provisions to promote more trade cooperation and predictability in times of crisis and pandemic – and speed up recovery.

This United Nations initiative, coordinated by ESCAP, is implemented jointly by UNCTAD and the 5 United Nations Regional Commissions (ECA, ECLAC, ESCAP, ESCWA and UNECE) in cooperation with WTO, CUTS and several other organizations from civil society, academia, and the private sector. A Core Expert Group has been established to guide the initiative and support delivery of an online (living) Handbook on Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and other Trade Agreements.

As a first step towards developing the Handbook, a 45-day Policy Hackathon was organized starting June 2020, enabling all interested trade negotiators and experts from government, academia, think tank, international organization, and civil society to contribute to this challenging endeavor. All relevant contributions by participants are made available through an online repository under their authors’ or their organizations’ names. (Deadline for application to participate was 29 May 2020). A webinar series has been organized to discussed the top contributions. Pilot Course on Negotiating Regional Trade Agreements for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic has been concluded successfully. The first version of the Handbook on Provisions and Options for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic has been published. A free, self-paced online course based on the Handbook is now available here. We held a session at the WTO Public Forum 2021, talking about the Handbook and the Initiative, click here to watch the recording.

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Core Expert Group

  • Anabel González, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics (June 2020 – June 2021)
  • Bipul Chattopadhyay, Executive Director, CUTS International, India
  • Deborah Elms, Executive Director, Asian Trade Centre and Vice Chair, Asia Business Trade Association
  • Henry Gao, Associate Professor, Singapore Management University School of Law
  • Lei Zhang, Dean, School of Trade Negotiations, Shanghai Center for Global Economic and Trade Governance, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics
  • Mostafa Abid Khan, Member, Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission, Government of Bangladesh
  • Paul Baker, Chief Executive, International Economics Consulting Ltd., Mauritius
  • Peter Draper, Executive Director, Institute for International Trade, University of Adelaide
  • Simon J. Evenett, Professor of International Trade and Economic Development, University of St. Gallen
  • Stephen Olson, Research Fellow, Hinrich Foundation
  • Wale Ogunkola, Professor, International Economics, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Mark Wu, Harvard Law School (June 2020 – November 2021)

Focal points from collaborating United Nations and other international organizations

  • ECA (Africa): Simon Mevel, African Trade Policy Center
  • ECLAC (Latin America): Jose Duran Lima, Chief, Regional Integration Unit and Sebastian Herreros
  • ESCWA (West Asia): Mohamed Chemmingi, Chief, Trade and Regional Integration Section
  • FAO: Marcio Castro De Souza, Senior Fishery Officer/International trade expert and YoonJee Kim, Fishery Officer – Products, Trade and Marketing Branch, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
  • UNCTAD: Miho Shirotori, Chief, Trade Negotiations and Commercial Diplomacy Branch, and Taisuke Ito
  • UNECE (Europe): Lance Thompson, Head of UN/CEFACT Secretariat
  • WTO: Gabrielle Marceau, Senior Counsellor, Research Division


Reference Materials