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UNCTAD: China's Trade Facilitation responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by: Pamela Ugaz and Sijia Sun

With the unprecedented global spread of COVID-19 in only one month, the World Health Organization has declared the virus a pandemic. The COVID-19 poses a severe global threat, not only substantially impacting people and public health, but also disrupting global trade. Border agencies face the challenge of expediting imports, including donations and emergency relief while ensuring epidemic prevention and providing adequate Customs clearance and compliance controls.

China has been at the epicentre of disease Covid-19, and it has launched a series of trade facilitation and compliance measures since January 2020. Maintaining incoming trade flows of medical supplies and food products has been seen as crucial. China also sought to minimize the disruption of COVID-19 on its export trade flows, which supplies nearly 20% of the global intermediate-goods trade.

Given its role in global value chains and being the first county to have taken wide-ranging measures in relation to trade flows as a reaction to Covid-19, China is a compelling case to study. Indeed, the Chinese experience in facilitating trade during tumultuous times may provide useful insights for response planning in other countries.

This article will first look at the process of adoption of a cross-border emergency plan in China. Then, it will provide information on concrete measures adopted by China from two perspectives: measures taken to relieve logistic bottlenecks that have affected trade in medicines, equipment and essential supplies to fight against the pandemic; and, measures to prevent supply chain disruption and to facilitate the resuming of business operations.

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