Coronavirus: G-20 ministers agree on importance of coordinated trade action

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing during a Group of 20 trade ministers meeting, held via video conference, on March 30, 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Group of 20 (G-20) trade ministers met in a video conference yesterday and backed the importance of coordinated trade and investment measures to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on global demand and supply.

They also affirmed their commitment to restoring confidence and continuity of trade by facilitating the flow of goods and services, and reducing the risk and disruption to global health supply chains.

Singapore was invited by Saudi Arabia, which holds the 2020 G-20 presidency, to participate in the video conference that was also attended by members such as Australia, China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States, as well as representatives from global organisations.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "The consensus by G-20 members to free and open trade during this critical time is a significant boost in our global fight against Covid-19.

"As an international community, we must continue to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, essential agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders, and speedily resolve disruptions to global supply chains to support the health and well-being of our people."

He noted that lockdowns have severely dented global production capacities and threatened jobs. Firms have also shut down, given inadequate cash flows, disrupted supply chains and weak forward demand.

Mr Chan said: "We will need to double down our efforts to keep the air and sea freight flowing."

He added that Singapore is committed to maintaining its air and sea hub facilities for the region and the world.

He also cautioned against policy missteps in this crisis, such as restrictive measures to preserve access to materials.

"Collectively, that aggravates the breakdown in global supply chains and reduction of global capacities and capabilities - especially those critical to the production of essential medical supplies," he said.

"We urge countries to refrain from imposing export controls or tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and to remove existing trade restrictive measures on essential goods."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: G-20 ministers agree on importance of coordinated trade action. Subscribe