G20 and the mission of connecting global anti-COVID-19 efforts

Saturday, 2020-09-26 16:36:21
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The Saudi Trade and Investment Ministers chair the G20 meeting on September 22. (Photo: Asharq Al-Awsat)
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NDO – Having played a leading role in coping with the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the Group of Twenty (G20) continues to be expected to promote cohesion between countries in a joint effort to overcome the current crisis, as the COVID-19 pandemic is causing serious and unprecedented impacts, pushing the global economy into a new spiral of recession and threatening to destroy the multilateral cooperation system.

The G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting took place virtually on September 22 under the G20 Saudi Presidency, during which a series of cooperation commitments were made, especially on trade and investment policies, aiming to respond to the disease’s economic impacts. The most prominent was the commitment to utilising all available policy tools and take necessary measures to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, promptly revive global economic growth and investment, maintain international trade flows, and stabilise markets around the world.

In the face of many restriction measures negatively affecting production and export activities, the world’s leading economies called for joint efforts to restore and promote trade, and to remove barriers to global supply chains. The communique of the meeting again affirms the important role of the rules-based multilateral trading system, especially in supporting the current world economic recovery momentum, which remains fragile.

The results of the recent G20 ministerial meeting are the latest commitments after many decisions and solutions delivered by G20 since the COVID-19 broke out and spread around the world. G20’s commitments are considered a positive and timely step in the context of the global economic outlook having been dyed grey and with countries, especially poor and low-income ones, still struggling to cope with the negative impacts and serious consequences of the disease.

According to the World Bank (WB), due to closed-door measures in many countries, global GDP is expected to decline by 5.2% this year. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) estimated the global trade volume of goods could fall by up to 30% compared to the 2019 level. The United Nations also warned that the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 could nearly double the number of people falling into urgent food shortages worldwide from 135 million in 2009 to 265 million by the end of this year.

Worryingly, in the spiral of negative effects of the disease, there is an increasing trend in trade protectionism and unilateral action, creating dangerous barriers within the multilateral trading system. For their own sake, some countries have applied “black tariffs” for imported goods, which has caused prolonged controversy and even escalated dangerous confrontation. Doubt and lack of trust between countries are hindering many international cooperation goals and projects of common interest and emergency such as the development and provision of COIVD-19 vaccine.

The G20 accounts for two-thirds of the world’s population, 90% of total global GDP and 80% of global trade. With its 20 members, who are all strong economies with an important voice in the region and the world, the G20 is playing an increasingly crucial role and has held a central position in many efforts to overcome global challenges, most recently the 2008-2009 financial-economic crisis. For the COVID-19-related crisis, the G20 has also made many policy decisions and practical steps to support countries to overcome the pandemic and the economic slump. In particular, public opinion welcomed the commitments of the G20 and international financial-monetary organisations to lifting and extending debts for poor countries in order to support the struggle against COVID-19.

Given the many challenges at present, the UN has urged countries to unite, prioritise international cooperation to promptly contain the disease, and coordinate policies on post-pandemic economic recovery. More than a decade ago, the G20 contributed significantly to the global economic recovery efforts following the bad recession stemming from the financial crisis. Now, the G20 is expected to continue to play a central role in the mission of connecting global communities to overcome the pandemic.