G20 outlines actions to support global trade and investment amid Covid-19

Ministers endorse removing ‘unnecessary’ trade barriers for vital medical supplies and other essential goods

A general view of the Abidjan-terminal at the port of Abidjan on May 8, 2020.
 The French group Bolloré, which since 2004 has been managing and operating the container terminal, called Abidjan-terminal, the heart of the activities of the port of Abidjan, which is the leading port in West Africa and accounts for 90% of the foreign trade of Ivory Coast, claims to have fulfilled its public service mission during this COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, as provided for in the award of the concession.  / AFP / ISSOUF SANOGO
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The trade and investment ministers of the G20 countries endorsed actions to support global trade and investment in response to Covid-19, following a virtual meeting hosted by G20 chair Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

The actions include short-term responses to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus and long-term responses to “support the necessary reform of the WTO [World Trade Organisation] and the multilateral trading system, build resilience in global supply chains and strengthen international investment”, the ministers said in a statement.

The pandemic has led to a decline in global production and trade is expected to decline 27 per cent in the second quarter, compared to the previous three months, according to a United Nations report published this week.

Last month the International Monetary Fund and the WTO expressed concerns over the growing use of export restrictions and called for the lifting of curbs on medical supplies and food items.

The G20, which comprises 19 countries with some of the world’s largest economics and the European Union, has taken action to avert the massive economic fallout from the virus, including injecting $5 trillion (Dh18.3tn) into the global economy.

Short-term collective actions recommended by the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group on Thursday include removing trade barriers, facilitating trade, improving transparency, enhancing the operation of logistics networks, and supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The ministers said any emergency trade measures, including export restrictions on vital medical supplies and other essential goods, “if deemed necessary, are targeted, proportionate, transparent, temporary, reflect our interest in protecting the most vulnerable” and do not create “unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains”.

They also pledged to refrain from introducing export restrictions on agricultural products and “avoid unnecessary food stockpiling”.

To facilitate trade, G20 countries are encouraged to expand production capacity for medical equipment, promote the use of online services and e-commerce, and resume essential cross-border travel while safeguarding public health.

Under long-term collective actions, the ministers said it was necessary to reform the WTO “to improve its functioning and support the role of the multilateral trading system in promoting stability and predictability of international trade flows”.

G20 members will continue to discuss the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the World Trade Organisation, proposed at the first meeting of the Trade and Investment Working Group in March.

The ministers also encouraged co-operation, sharing best practices and establishing guidelines on essential business travel to strengthen global supply chains and international investment.