G20 trade ministers to focus on free, fair trade in pandemic response

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RIYADH — G20 member states and guest countries on Monday agreed to step up cooperation and coordination to ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies and equipment and other essentials in the face of the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

"Now more than ever is the time for the international community to step up cooperation and coordination to protect human life and lay the foundations for a strong economic recovery and a sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth after this crisis,” they said in a statement after a meeting of trade and investment ministers.

During the meeting, the ministers monitored and assessed the impact of the pandemic on trade.

"We are actively working to ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies and equipment, critical agricultural products, and other essential goods and services across borders, for supporting the health of our citizens. Consistent with national requirements, we will take immediate necessary measures to facilitate trade in those essential goods," the ministers said.

They vowed to ensure the availability and accessibility of essential medical supplies at affordable prices, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed, and as quickly as possible, including by encouraging additional production through incentives and targeted investment, according to national circumstances.

"We are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable developing and least developed countries, and notably in Africa and small island states,” the statement added.

The ministers agreed on emergency measures designed to tackle COVID-19, if deemed necessary, must be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary, and that they do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains, and are consistent with WTO rules. "We will implement those measures upholding the principle of international solidarity, considering the evolving needs of other countries for emergency supplies and humanitarian assistance,” the statement said.

They emphasized the importance of transparency in the current environment and the commitment to notify the WTO of any trade related measures taken, all of which will enable global supply chains to continue to function in this crisis, while expediting the recovery that will follow.

"As we fight the pandemic both individually and collectively and seek to mitigate its impacts on international trade and investment, we will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non- discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open."

The ministers ensured smooth and continued operation of the logistics networks that serve as the backbone of global supply chains. We will explore ways for logistics networks via air, sea and land freight to remain open, as well as ways to facilitate essential movement of health personnel and businesspeople across borders, without undermining the efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. — SG


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