King Salman urges G20 to continue support for global economy

Saudi Arabia's leader calls for reopening of borders to facilitate movement of people and trade

Media watches Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz's virtual speech live at the media centre during an opening session of the 15th annual G20 Leaders' Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 21, 2020. REUTERS/Nael Shyoukhi

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz called for coordinated efforts to revive global economic growth and urged leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies to continue supporting the still-shaky global economy.

G20 leaders should also take steps to boost trade, which is key to global economic recovery, King Salman said in his opening remarks to this year's two-day G20 leaders’ summit.

Global leaders have convened online instead of arriving in Riyadh as the effects of Covid-19 continue to reverberate around the world.

“We must continue to support the global economy and reopen our economies and our borders to facilitate the mobility of trade and people,” he said.

The pandemic has been an “unprecedented shock that affected the entire world within a short period of time".

“Our peoples and economies are still suffering from this shock. However, we will do our best to overcome this crisis through international cooperation,” King Salman said.

"We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance to our peoples through adopting policies to mitigate this crisis.”

This is the second time G20 leaders have met this year. An extraordinary summit was convened in March at which the countries agreed to “spare no efforts” to overcome the pandemic. Leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will examine the progress achieved so far over the two-day summit, which will culminate in a joint communique.

“The G20 leaders met for the first time 12 years ago in response to the financial crisis. The outcomes achieved are ample proof that the G20 is the most prominent forum for international cooperation and for tackling global crises,” King Salman said.

“Today, we are working together again to face another, deeper global crisis that has ravaged people and economies”, and with the global leaders in attendance, the Riyadh summit will deliver “significant and decisive results”, he said.

It will lead to adopting economic and social policies that will “restore hope and reassurance to the people of the world”, he added.

The extraordinary summit in March set plans in motion for a global economic recovery, resulting in governments rolling out nearly $12 trillion in fiscal stimulus. These measures were supported by about $7.5tn in monetary action by central banks. These steps helped to shore up the world's financial markets and put a floor under the global economy.

Signs have emerged of an uneven economic recovery in recent months as some developed nations have recorded better-than-expected economic momentum in the third quarter. However, the International Monetary Fund expects global output to shrink 4.4 per cent this year and recover only modestly in 2021.

Covid-19 has infected about 58 million people and killed over 1.38 million, data from Worldometer shows. The second wave of the coronavirus has gripped parts of Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East, sending some of Europe's biggest economies back into lockdown.

The G20 consists of 19 countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US – and the European Union.

Members of the group, which account for 85 per cent of the world's gross domestic product, in June pledged more than $21bn towards diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics to fight the pandemic.

King Salman said although there is optimism about the progress made in developing vaccines, the G20 leadership “must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples”.

“At the same time, we must prepare better for any future pandemic.”

His comments echoed those of UN chief Antonio Guterres who on Friday urged G20 leaders to fund a rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations and help raise $28 billion towards UN anti-Covid-19 efforts, including $4.2bn by the end of the year.

While King Salman called for “coordinated” support for developing countries to preserve the growth achieved in past decades, he also urged for conditions to be created for a more sustainable world economy.

The key priorities set by Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency of empowering people, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers remain essential to “overcome this global challenge and shape a better future for our people”, he said.

“In the near future, we must address the vulnerabilities exposed by Covid-19, while working to protect lives and livelihoods,” he added.

Officials from international organisations including the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the UN, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the World Trade Organisation are also attending the summit.

The G20 has also invited representatives of regional bodies including the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the African Union. The UAE as the chair of the six-member economic bloc of the GCC is also attending.