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 will be 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 will be made available through an online repository under their authors’ or their organizations’ names. Deadline for application to participate is 29 May 2020.
Learn more here.