The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed countries’ reliance on ad-hoc unilateral measures in response to crisis. To combat the pandemic, countries took measures such as export restrictions while also in some cases expediting procedures for imports of essential goods. Overall, countries showed little coordination despite the existence of a large number of trade agreements. The hundreds of regional trade agreements (RTAs) signed by economies appear to provide little or no guidance on handling trade in times of pandemic or crisis. In order to fill this gap, ESCAP together with UNCTAD and other UN Regional Commissions, as well as experts from public and private sectors launched a global Initiative on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and other Trade Agreements (IMP) in May 2020. Following a global Policy Hackathon to generate ideas on how to tackle this issue, a comprehensive Handbook on Provisions and Options for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic has been developed.
A course based on the Handbook is being piloted for the first time in Asia and the Pacific, aiming to build capacity of trade negotiators and related stakeholders in the region, and to gather feedback on the Handbook and the course materials before it is rolled out regionally – and made available globally. To achieve the aims, the course will endeavour to (1) enhance the understanding of the need for improving trade agreements to ensure better response to pandemics and other crises; (2) provide a range of options of provisions that could be used in future trade agreements; and (3) get feedback from negotiators and policy analysts, which can be integrated in future iterations of the course and the Handbook.
Upon studying the course materials, passing the quizzes, attending the live sessions and providing feedback, participants will get an official course certificate.