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United Nations Issues Guidance On Negotiating Trade Agreements In Times Of Crisis And Pandemic

The United Nations has released the first version of a Handbook on Provisions and Options for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic’. Work on the handbook was initiated by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa (ECA), Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), West Asia (ESCWA) and Europe (UNECE), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) after realizing that the hundreds of regional trade agreements in place provided no guidance to countries on how to keep trade going during the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, especially during the first half of 2020, many countries took ad-hoc unilateral measures that seriously disrupted international supply chains, including supplies in essential goods, such as medical equipment as well as food.

The Handbook is based on inputs collected from a wide range of experts, including from civil society, academia and the private sector, under the Global Initiative on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic in Regional and other Trade Agreements (IMP). It is a living document, which will be updated based on feedback from users and as new lessons emerge. It is freely accessible at: https://www.unescap.org/kp

Along with the Handbook, the UN also has made available a free online self-paced course based on the Handbook. Everyone interested can take the short course and get the certificate upon completion of online testing requirements at https://www.unescap.org/training/rta-ttcp. Professors and teachers of international trade law and development are welcome to integrate the short course in their own programmes. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa (ECA), Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), West Asia (ESCWA) and Europe (UNECE), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) will also organize facilitated global and regional courses based on the Handbook starting later this year.

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