Saudi officials attend a video conference of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Riyadh, capital city of Saudi Arabia on March 23, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
It is good to see that after a video conference hosted by Saudi Arabia on Monday, the G20 ministers of trade and investment have issued a joint statement vowing to keep their markets open and guarantee the flow of medical and other supplies that are essential to the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Although their videoconference was short, the outcomes of the extraordinary leaders' summit on Thursday look set to be substantial.
Necessity has been the mother of this newfound unity of purpose among the developed and major developing countries. It shows that when there is the will there is the way to lift all the institutional barriers in order to facilitate trade.
By taking "immediate necessary measures" to facilitate the trade in essential goods and incentivize additional production of equipment and medicinal ingredients, as the trade ministers agreed in the statement, the major economies sent the badly needed signal to the goods manufacturers that they can produce at top speed and what they produce will be eagerly bought and swiftly delivered.
With the production capacity of essential medical supplies recovering in China, translating those words into tangible actions will enable medical staff around the world to get the protective equipment and medicines they are crying out for, and instill public confidence that we are all in this together.
Notably, the statement said these countries will work together to prevent profiteering and unjustified price increases, and keep supplies flowing on an affordable and equitable basis, which is crucial to maintain the healthy order of the market, and protect the interests of all parties, particularly the people in the worst-hit regions.
Although these actions are so far restricted to fields related to pandemic control as an emergency response to the public health crisis, if the coordinated efforts of the major economies can be implemented and yield their desired effects, they will not only help create jobs and stabilize growth, but also offer countries a rare opportunity to see how free trade can benefit all.
A free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and an open market should by no means be an expedient but the normal state for global trade and investment. It is a pity that it has taken a global pandemic — as of Tuesday afternoon the virus had infected nearly 800,000 people and claimed about 38,000 lives around the world — to prompt the countries, particularly those believing in a zero-sum game and protectionism, to regain their common sense.
As the ministerial statement said, now more than ever is the time for the international community to step up cooperation and coordination to protect lives and lay the foundations for a strong economic recovery and a sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth after this crisis.
That aspiration for the future should not be forgotten once the immediate exigencies no longer focus attention on cooperation and cooperation. For if history makes one thing certain, other times of distress lie await in the future. This pandemic shows that we need to be better prepared to face them together.