G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

They stopped well short of calling for an end to export bans that many countries have enacted on medical supplies.

RIYADH (Reuters) - Trade ministers from the Group of 20 major economies convened an extraordinary video conference on Monday to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global trade and discuss cooperation on supply chains.

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In a virtual summit last week, G20 leaders pledged to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus and “do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”

They said they would ensure the flow of vital medical supplies and other goods across borders and to resolve supply chain disruptions caused by multiple closures of frontiers by national governments anxious to limit transmission of the virus.

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But they stopped well short of calling for an end to export bans that many countries have enacted on medical supplies.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia, this year’s G20 host, said the group must send a strong signal to restore confidence in the global economy by resuming the normal flow of goods and services as soon as possible.

A statement from the ministerial gathering was expected around 1500 GMT. The meeting aimed to maintain international supply chains by facilitating the flow of goods and services, amid fears of global shortages.

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Yousef Al-Benyan, chair of the Saudi Business 20 which engages the global business community, told Reuters the coronavirus crisis proves the importance of cross-border trade which he said would be vital to economic recovery.

Each G20 state must “address their local requirements, but that should not compromise the good state of free trade globally which will benefit everybody”, he added.

Besides G20 members, representatives from international agencies including the World Health Organization, World Trade Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were also invited to Monday’s meeting, Japan’s foreign ministry said.

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Since emerging in central China late last year, the coronavirus has spread around the world, infecting more than 720,000 and killing at least 34,000, and is expected to trigger a global recession.