Food Coalition

Trade, intra-regional trade and food safety standards

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures throughout Asia have had measurable impacts on trade flows, causing trade disruptions and temporary interruptions. Under COVID-19 lockdown, cross-border trade either slowed or came to a halt from border closures or direct import or export restrictions. International trade disruption also affected several countries, interrupting the flow of critical goods, staple foods, agricultural inputs (fertilizer, seeds), and equipment (food processing) needed for domestic food production, processing, and consumption. In the short-term, following COVID-19 lockdown, trade flows were more volatile for fresh produce (fruit and vegetables), live animals, livestock products, and fresh or dry fish, all of which experienced a drop in demand and cancelled exports.

The COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over how the food supply chains function focused attention on food trade criticality with renewed interest in expanding intra-regional trade, as in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Strengthening trade for food security, food safety, and protection against the next zoonotic epidemic requires improved recognized standards, digital data sharing, and simplified administrative procedures to reduce non-tariff measures, trade and transaction costs, and remove obstacles to trade beyond those required by food safety.

During post-COVID-19 response and recovery, there is likely to be heightened interest in trade, driven by several COVID-19 related priorities, including rebuilding food supply chains resistant to disruptions from pandemics and similar crises, enhanced food safety, and strong safeguards against zoonotic epidemics. Food trade has taken on a new urgency driven by several priorities, including:

contributing to food supply diversification as part of rebuilding resilient food systems by removing unnecessary trade restrictions, ensuring a smooth supply of critical imports (including agricultural inputs, production and processing equipment), and meeting essential domestic consumption requirements in line with nutrition diversity and healthy diets;

strengthening food safety processes, including product quality upgrades, and compliance with food standards; promoting geographical indications; and improving traceability will allow smooth food trade flows that maintain or improve export market shares and meet stricter requirements for traceability, increased food safety, and health concerns arising from COVID-19;

boosting resilience to future pandemics or shocks by strengthening product flow monitoring and tracing, tracking, and stopping illegal trade through increased international cooperation and harmonization of health protocols and environmental standards;

expanding intra-regional trade, especially within trading blocs operating under preferential trade agreements (as in ASEAN), and enhancing market transparency are critical to smooth out food supply shocks and variability, minimize trade disruptions during a crisis, improve trade policy coordination and support evidence-based policy responses during crises, disasters or pandemics.

Priority Areas of work: Trade and Food Safety Standards
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 3. Good Health and Well-being, 5. Gender Equality, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, 12. Responsible Consumption and Production, 17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Level: Regional
Region: Asia and the Pacific
Country: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Nepal, Vietnam
Budget: USD 20 million

Action Sheet:  RAP_1.pdf

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