Group of 20 trade chiefs pledged to try to keep supply chains open as the world fights to contain the coronavirus pandemic and limit the economic fallout.
The G-20 commerce ministers also vowed to “guard against profiteering and unjustified price increases” during a conference call on Monday devoted to the trade and investment implications of the health scare.
“We will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the ministers said in a joint statement released by Saudi Arabia, current holder of the G-20’s rotating presidency. “We will explore ways for logistics networks via air, sea and land freight to remain open.”
The pandemic is exposing rifts between countries’ traditional pledges to uphold free trade and their actions to meet the short-term needs of domestic populations facing lockdowns meant to stop the spread of the virus, which has killed 35,000 globally.
Russia, for example, last week proposed limiting shipments of its grain abroad. The European Union criticized such moves on Monday by warning against food export restrictions.
“There is no global supply shortage at this time and such measures are completely unjustified,” EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan told his G-20 counterparts.
The EU, the world’s most lucrative single market, has itself faced criticism for a mid-March decision to require temporarily an authorization for the sale outside the 27-nation bloc of personal protective equipment needed to fight the virus, known as Covid-19.
In their joint statement, the G-20 trade chiefs appeared to offer scope for such moves by saying they can be compatible with World Trade Organization rules.
“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 rules,” the ministers said.
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