Following the positive results of the experience-sharing sessions on trade in COVID-19 related products carried out in the Committee since March 2022, members agreed at the last Committee meeting in October to continue the practice of organizing thematic sessions based on members' proposals. It was also agreed by members to have a variety of organizations in these sessions and to include the perspectives of both developed and developing members, including least developed countries (LDCs).

Moderated by Professor Marcelo Olarreaga of the University of Geneva, panellists were asked to share a definition of supply chain resilience and their views on how crises affect the movement of goods through supply chains. They also addressed the elements that have an impact on how quickly the flow of goods can be restored after a crisis as well as when and where government action and international coordination can help to prepare supply chains for crises.

Victor Stolzenburg, WTO Economic Research and Statistics Division, noted that there is no broad consensus on the definition and concept of resilience, nor on how to measure it. He referred to the definition in the WTO World Trade Report 2021, which defines resilience as “the ability of a system to prevent and prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks.”

Noting that evidence shows that trade and global supply chains are highly resilient, Mr Stolzenburg stressed that the multilateral trading system has greatly contributed to helping to mitigate the impact of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that the resilience of trade supports broader economic resilience by providing options during a crisis. He highlighted in particular the need to find cooperative solutions to address bottlenecks and concentration in supply chains, especially when the source of crises is unknown.

Daria Taglioni, Development Research Group at the World Bank, acknowledged the challenge of finding solutions to the existential threats the planet is facing at a time in which the global economy is under severe stress and said deglobalization is not the answer. She also underlined the role international organizations can play by addressing differences on issues such as trade and security and trade and the environment as well as by promoting better data and knowledge to inform political decisions.

Jan Hoffmann, Trade Logistics Branch at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), focused on the importance of supply chains given their positive impact on prices, employment and development. Shocks and disruptions to supply chains are becoming increasingly common and putting to the test shipping, ports and their hinterland connections, he said. Building critical supply-chain resilience through more robust maritime transport and logistics is imperative.

Mr Hoffman referred to the first Global Supply Chain Forum that UNCTAD and the Government of Barbados will organize from 21 to 24 May 2024. The event responds to the need to tackle ongoing and future supply chain challenges, covering issues such as financing, sustainable and resilient transport and logistics, he said. Participants will also address trade facilitation, transport connectivity, digitalization, food security, transport costs, climate change adaptation and mitigation, with a view to helping developing economies to prepare for the transition to low-carbon energy in international transport.

Ms Lazzat Daniyarova, Compliance and Facilitation Directorate at the World Customs Organization (WCO), spoke about the definition of “Customs-Industry Resilience” which was endorsed by the WCO in October and will be included in the WCO glossary of customs terms.

According to the WCO, resilience means “an entity’s preparedness and readiness to anticipate, prevent, absorb, adapt, recover and evolve from the full spectrum of natural and human-induced crises to ensure the continued delivery of critical goods and services.”

Ms Daniyarova elaborated on how government action and international coordination can help to prepare supply chains for crises or help to restore the flow of goods following a crisis. She stressed three elements that can contribute to this end:

  • disaster management (reviewing national customs legal frameworks, and advocating for the licensing/registration of humanitarian actors);
  • response phase (creating a disaster task force, adjusting work environments, and expediting clearance processes); and
  • recovery phase (designing a recovery planning team, assessing the situation, and revising business continuity plans and standard operating procedures).

Members recognized the importance of these sessions and stressed the role of the rules-based multilateral trading system in underpinning the global response to crises, facilitating the smooth operation of supply chains and minimizing trading costs.

The Chair of the Committee, Renata Cristaldo of Paraguay, said the session brought unique and varied points of view, enabling members to have further discussions. She invited members to consider what topics related to supply chain resilience could be continued to be discussed in the Committee through additional experience-sharing sessions.




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