G-20 Summit can help boost support for effective vaccine and rules-based multilateral trading system: Lawrence Wong

Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong (left) with Ambassador Saad Saleh Al-Saleh at the Commemorative Event for Saudi G-20 Presidency.
Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong (left) with Ambassador Saad Saleh Al-Saleh at the Commemorative Event for Saudi G-20 Presidency.PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Singapore hopes the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit this weekend will boost support for the World Health Organisation's (WHO) efforts to develop an effective coronavirus vaccine, as well as for a rules-based multilateral trading system, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong.

Mr Wong, who is also Second Minister for Finance, was speaking at a commemorative event at Shangri-La Hotel organised by the Saudi Embassy in Singapore on Monday (Nov 16).

The G-20 comprises 19 advanced and emerging economies and the European Union. This year's summit, whose theme is "Realising opportunities of the 21st century for all", will be held virtually from Nov 21 to 22.

Mr Wong highlighted three wishes for a successful summit outcome.

First, that the G-20 will rally global support for the WHO and its critical efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines that can be distributed equitably and affordably worldwide.

"We cannot afford to get into vaccine nationalism... If there is one lesson that Covid-19 has reinforced, it is that no one can be safe unless everyone is safe," he said.

Second, that the G-20 can send a strong signal of support for a rules-based multilateral trading system, as keeping markets open and supply chains intact is key to accessing essential medical supplies, minimising disruptions and enhancing economic recovery.

Third, that the G-20 leaders will signal their collective determination to rebuild the global economy in a way that is greener and more sustainable - such as by investing in new sustainable infrastructure, and setting the tone for a successful UN Climate Change Conference in 2021.

Despite restrictions due to Covid-19, Saudi Arabia - which assumed the G-20 presidency in December last year - has galvanised international responses to the pandemic, and has undertaken "extraordinary" efforts to reach out to countries which are not part of the G-20, said Mr Wong.

In his speech, he noted that Saudi Arabia led the G-20 to develop a comprehensive action plan to tackle the immediate crisis and to emerge stronger. "Part of this also involves coordination efforts for bilateral creditors to participate in the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries."

The G-20's commitments this year include restoring global growth, maintaining market stability, and strengthening resilience.

A debt suspension initiative was also extended until June 2021, giving some 43 countries more time to redirect funding to much-needed healthcare and emergency stimulus.

Mr Wong added that Saudi Arabia had included the views of guest countries such as Singapore, which in turn helped to represent the views of a wider global community. "We hope that future G-20 presidencies will continue this tradition."

While Singapore is not a G-20 member, it is invited to participate in its capacity as the convener of the Global Governance Group (3G) - an informal coalition of 30 states which include Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Switzerland and New Zealand. The 3G seeks to influence the G-20 to take into account the interests of smaller countries affected by its decisions, and is regularly represented at its summits.

Mr Wong said: "Just as the G-20 was able to steer the global economy out of the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, I am confident that with Saudi Arabia's leadership, the G-20 will once again help us realise a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery."