The Jakarta Post
Top diplomats from 13 countries of a cross-regional network, including Indonesia, Singapore and Canada, have agreed on key principles of keeping transportation links and supply chains open to cushion the impacts of COVID-19 on global trade and economy.
Facilitated by Canada, the informal network called the International Coordination Group on COVID-19 (ICGC) consists primarily of half of the G20 countries -- Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom -- with the addition of Morocco, Peru and Singapore. It was recently established to look for a shared commitment to "promote and protect free trade" and other selected measures to tackle COVID-19.
The fresh declaration was made by foreign ministries of ICGC in a Friday evening teleconference, after it was deliberated at a recent senior officials meeting.
Going forward, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said, any future cooperation “must be action-oriented” which would bring tangible benefits to the general public worldwide.
The declaration, despite its nature as a non-legally binding political declaration, aims at bolstering international norms and actions in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and to manage its social economic impacts. It identified a number of areas for concrete collaborative actions, outlining commitments to maintain an open flow of trade and investment, facilitate repatriation of stranded travelers, and to look for efforts to restore the post-pandemic global economy.
“We will continue to promote and protect free trade,” the ministers said in the declaration, as quoted from a press statement on Saturday. “[...] and we agree that 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 [World Trade Organization] rules.”
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Facebook on Saturday that the ICGC ministers had reiterated the importance of maintaining global connectivity, “such as transport and supply chain links, which will help all our economies recover more quickly when the pandemic eventually subsides”.
The WTO had sounded the alarm on Wednesday that global trade could plummet by a third this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, warning the deepest recession "of our lifetimes" could be on the horizon.
North America and Asia would be hardest-hit and could see their exports plunge by 40 and 36 percent respectively, while Europe and South America could see declines of more than 30 percent, the WTO said.
WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said countries could ensure a faster and stronger rebound through international cooperation. "A turn toward protectionism would introduce new shocks on top of those we are currently enduring," Azevedo said, as reported by AFP.
"Keeping markets open to international trade and investment would help economies recover more quickly," he said, arguing that "we will see a much faster recovery than if each country goes it alone."
Following the declaration, the ICGC would now strongly advocate for other countries to take similar steps, with South Korea leading a conversation on best practices for emerging from the COVID-19 crisis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge. Maintaining strong coordination with our international partners is critical to mitigate the repercussions of the ongoing challenges we face,” Canada’s Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement. “Keeping people, goods and services moving is key in both addressing these issues and ensuring the transition to a strong recovery.”
They will also continue to pool research and scientific resources and efforts to work toward a COVID-19 vaccine and enhanced testing kits for all countries, the declaration said.
As a number of countries and scientists are racing against time to develop COVID-19 vaccines and cures, Retno said that international cooperation “must be able to facilitate the availability of an effective, affordable COVID-19 vaccine and accessible to developing countries”.