Commentary: G20 Has Vital Leading Role In Moment Of Dual Global Crises
One year ago, in his remarks at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in the Japanese city of Osaka, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the leaders of major economies to “re-calibrate the direction of the world economy and global governance at this critical juncture, work together to boost market confidence, and bring hope to our people.”
The G20, the world’s premier platform for international economic cooperation, should step up its efforts to coordinate a much more effective and rigorous global response, just as what it did to lead the world out of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
As the clock is ticking, G20 members have already been working to strengthen their communication, and are searching for solutions.
At a virtual summit in late March, G20 leaders agreed that “the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities,” and vowed to present “a united front against this common threat.”
Also, multiple meetings of the group’s central bankers and finance ministers, as well as ministerial gatherings in the fields of trade, health, agriculture, digital economy, energy and tourism have been held.
Yet with few signs showing that the COVID-19 pandemic is ebbing, a global caseload exceeding 10 million, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting a global contraction of 4.9 percent this year, the G20 bloc, representing nearly 90 percent of the global economy, shoulders a much heavier responsibility this time and thus needs to do more.
The top priority is, of course, to beat the virus, or at least slow down its momentum of infections. G20 members should thus focus on how they can improve their collective prevention and control coordination, and support such international organizations as the World Health Organization in playing their unique guiding roles so that chains of cross-border transmissions are cut off, and new sources of infections are nipped in the bud.
They should also champion the global cause by researching and developing effective treatments and vaccines, and ensure that those life-saving tools in the coronavirus response are made universally available as global public goods, and as quickly as possible.
Facing the deadly virus, no one will ever be truly safe until everyone is safe. G20 members should continue helping developing and least developed countries, notably those in Africa and small island states, build up their health systems and capacities in coping with the coronavirus challenge.
Compared to the fight against the deadly pathogen, the battle to forestall the arrival of what many believe will be the most serious global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s is even more arduous.
To jumpstart global economic recovery in the post-pandemic world, the G20 should first jointly stabilize the hard-hit global trade and supply chains through enhanced international cooperation. This is also vital to the final victory over the deadly disease.
Take ventilators as an example. A commercial ventilator is composed of around 1,500 parts supplied by more than a dozen countries. To ramp up production of the life-saving machines, the countries involved must work together.
This means that G20 economies in the face of the pandemic should hold together the reeling global industrial and supply chains, and guarantee a smooth flow of such key trade items as medical supplies and agricultural products.
Another task is to lay a rock solid foundation for future growth in the post-pandemic world through well coordinated financial relief plans and recovery blueprints.
During the March summit, G20 nations pledged 5 trillion United States dollars to spur global economic recovery from the pandemic, and promised to “continue to conduct bold and large-scale fiscal support.”
It is also essential to make sure that the world’s heavily indebted countries will not be submerged financially. Thus G20 countries should follow through with their Debt Service Suspension Initiative so that those nations are supported in their efforts to protect lives and alleviate the economic and financial crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the group should work with the IMF, the World Bank and other multilateral financial bodies to allocate resources and raise additional funds to fight the pandemic, inject abundant liquidity into the global marketplace, and foster confidence in this very moment of uncertainty and fear.
At the political level, the G20 can serve, as it always does, as a platform to bridge divisions and build up consensus. Within the G20 framework, broader anti-virus cooperation requires China and the United States, the world’s top two economies, to find ways to work together.
“Geopolitical and trade tensions could damage fragile global relationships at a time when trade is projected to collapse by around 12 percent,” IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath has warned.
China hawks in Washington should stop taking advantage of the pandemic to attack China and stoke geopolitical tensions, because such poisonous schemes will only undermine joint efforts to defeat the virus and salvage the global economy.
As major economies, G20 members’ decisions bear global and far-reaching significance.
Sitting side by side with his G20 colleagues last year in Osaka, Xi warned against allowing themselves “to become prisoners of short-term interests” and “irrevocable mistakes of historic consequences.”
He also said that “by expanding common interests and taking a long-term view, we can realize enduring peace and prosperity in the world and deliver a better life to all our people.”
The coronavirus pandemic is indeed a monumental test for the human race’s ability to come together to face off a shared critical threat. Failure is not an option and the G20 has no other choice but to lead.