Riyadh - SPA
Dr. Al-Qassabi Delivers Opening Statement at Virtual G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting
Dr. Al-Qassabi Delivers Opening Statement at Virtual G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting
Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qassabi, Minister of Commerce and Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, delivered the opening statement at the virtual G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting today.
"The Coronavirus pandemic has also inflicted serious damage on our economies and disrupted familiar patterns of trade and investment in significant ways. As Ministers of Trade and Investment, the measures we adopted in our extra-ordinary meeting in May were critical for sustaining the flow of essential goods and services across borders and limiting the human toll of the pandemic. Without such measures, medical professionals in many countries would not have been able to access pharmaceuticals and medical supplies necessary to protect themselves and save the lives of their patients," Dr. Al-Qassabi said.
"Under the Saudi Presidency, the Trade and Investment Working Group has worked tirelessly under exceptional circumstances to put the trade and investment agenda at the core of multi-lateral cooperation. The outcomes of these efforts speak for themselves: In our extraordinary meeting in May we collectively endorsed the G20 Actions to support trade and investment in response to Covid-19 pandemic, which proved critical for limiting the potential harmful effects of the pandemic; We launched the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO, which offered a forum for G20 members to exchange their views on the future of the WTO and to support the multilateral trading system; We compiled a set of policy guidelines that serve as a reference for policy makers when supporting MSMEs' internationalization efforts; We synthesized best practices and lessons learned based on inputs from the Group, with a focus on trade in services and special economic zones," Dr. Al-Qassabi added.
"Today, some of the worst days of the pandemic may hopefully be behind us. However, while some sectors of our economies are gradually recovering others are still reeling under the pandemic-induced contraction. In these challenging times, the need for an open, fair and rules-based multilateral trading system is critical to support global economic recovery," Dr. Al-Qassabi said.
Dr. Al-Qassabi thanked each and every member of the Working Group for their dedication, commitment, and goodwill in achieving these outcomes. He also thanked international organizations and recognize their high-quality support to the group.
G20 Trade and Investment Ministers Meeting Concluded
The G20 Trade and Investment Ministers Meeting was concluded today by issuing a final communique which reads as follows:
" We, the G20 Trade and Investment Ministers, met virtually on 22 September 2020, under the G20 Saudi Presidency, to further strengthen G20 trade and investment cooperation.
We have met on two previous occasions this year for extraordinary virtual meetings to ensure a coordinated response to the impact of COVID-19 on global trade and investment and the global economy. We remain gravely concerned with the serious risks posed to all countries, particularly developing and least developed countries, and notably in Africa and small island states.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue our cooperation and coordination to: (i) support recovery of international trade and investment; (ii) support the necessary reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to which the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO provides political support; (iii) encourage greater international competitiveness of Micro-, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs); (iv) foster economic diversification; and (v) strengthen international investment.
At this critical time, trade and investment must act as important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation, development and poverty reduction, to contribute to laying the foundation for a global economic recovery that leads to sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth. We will continue to take joint actions to strengthen international cooperation and frameworks.
We recall the importance of maintaining focus on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the role of trade and investment in this regard.
We continue to endorse the "G20 Actions to Support World Trade and Investment in Response to COVID-19" which we will continue to implement and recall our request that the Trade and Investment Working Group provide status updates. In this regard, we welcome the progress achieved, in particular the termination of many trade restrictive measures and the implementation of trade facilitation measures. We reiterate the importance that any emergency trade measures designed to tackle COVID-19, if deemed necessary, are targeted, proportionate, transparent, temporary, reflect our interest in protecting the most vulnerable, do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains, and are consistent with WTO rules.
We will continue to do whatever it takes and to use all available policy tools to minimize the economic and social damage of the pandemic, restore global growth, maintain market stability, and strengthen resilience, as mandated by our Leaders.
As health challenges continue to take center stage, we emphasize the essential role of the multilateral trading system in promoting stability and predictability of international trade flows, as well as of trade and investment policies in ensuring that all countries have access to essential medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, at an affordable price, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible, and incentivize innovation consistent with members' international commitments. We also recognize the need to increase the sustainability and resilience of national, regional, and global supply chains and to expand production capacity and trade, notably in the areas of pharmaceutical, medical and other health-related products. We will continue to explore COVID-19 related WTO initiatives in this respect.
We will continue to work to realize the goal of a free, fair, inclusive, non- discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment and to keep our markets open, including to assist in the recovery from the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
The need to handle trade tensions and to foster mutually beneficial trade relations, affirmed last year in Tsukuba, is critical in the post COVID-19 scenario. We reaffirm that structural problems in some sectors, such as excess capacities, can cause a negative impact. We will continue to work to ensure a level playing field to foster an enabling business environment.
We highlight the critical role that the digital economy and electronic commerce have played in helping sustain economic activity through the COVID-19 pandemic and in ensuring the continued operation of supply chains and delivery of essential goods and services. We also note that the pandemic has underscored the challenge of the lack of access to the digital economy for many vulnerable citizens due to the persistence of the digital divide. We recall the Osaka Leaders Declaration and the Tsukuba Trade and Digital Economy Ministers Statement and reaffirm the interface between trade and the digital economy. We note the ongoing discussions under the Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce and the Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions, and reaffirm the need to reinvigorate the Work Program on Electronic Commerce at the WTO.
We recognize the importance of continuing to foster women's economic empowerment with a view to achieving global economic recovery. To that effect, we take note of the work of the Women 20 and will continue to support the growth of women-owned businesses and their increased participation in global markets and international trade.
We recognize the contribution that the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO has made by providing an additional opportunity to discuss and reaffirm the objectives and foundational principles of the multilateral trading system and to demonstrate ongoing political support for WTO reform discussions.
We note the Chair’s "Summary of the Exchange of Views under the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO” and its transmission to all WTO Members through the General Council of the WTO. This Summary was prepared by the Chair of the Trade and Investment Working Group under his own responsibility and is without prejudice to the positions of individual members.
We reaffirm our commitment to the objectives and principles enshrined in the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO.
We recognize that the effectiveness of the multilateral trading system depends on the implementation of WTO rules by all Members, as well as their respective enforcement, in order to maintain the balance of Members’ rights and obligations.
We remain committed to working actively and constructively with other WTO Members to undertake the necessary reform of the WTO. We recognize that this reform should improve the functions of the WTO and we encourage a constructive discussion of all proposals in this regard.
We recognize transparency as an important condition for enhancing trade predictability and fostering trust between WTO members with regards to the compliance with their WTO obligations. In this regard, we reaffirm our commitment to fulfill our WTO transparency obligations and to lead by example and we call on all other WTO Members to do so. We recognize the need for assistance to WTO Members that face capacity constraints in meeting their notification obligations. We acknowledge ongoing discussions to enhance transparency and bolster compliance with notification obligations at the WTO.
We underscore the significance of ongoing WTO negotiations and reiterate our support to achieve an agreement by 2020 on comprehensive and effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies, as WTO Ministers decided at the 11th Ministerial Conference. Many members affirm the need to strengthen international rules on industrial subsidies and welcome ongoing international efforts to improve trade rules affecting agriculture. Many of us highlighted agricultural subsidies and agricultural market access. We also stress that urgent action is necessary regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system in order to contribute to predictability and security in the multilateral trading system.
We note the ongoing discussions under the Joint Statement Initiatives (JSI) at the WTO, including the JSI on E-Commerce, Investment Facilitation for Development, MSMEs, and Services Domestic Regulation. G20 participants in these initiatives call for significant progress in the lead up to the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference. We note that concerns have been expressed on rule-making by some G20 members who are not part of the JSIs.
We note the process under-way to select the next Director General of the WTO. We look forward to working with all WTO Members towards concluding the selection process by the 7th of November 2020.
The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference represents an important milestone in an inclusive and ambitious process of WTO reform. We will use the additional time available until then to bolster our efforts to work constructively with other WTO Members to achieve meaningful progress in advancing our shared interests, including emerging stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic and progressing with the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning. Boosting the International Competitiveness of MSMEs
MSMEs play a critical role in our economies, employing between 40 to 90 percent of the labor force, accounting for 95 percent of firms across the world, and generating 35 to 60 percent of our GDP. Their ability to continue growing and to increase their significant contribution to economic activity depends, in part, on their capacity to further integrate into the global economy. We also recognize the different challenges faced by MSMEs in different countries, and notably in developing and least developed countries.
MSMEs face disproportional challenges in their efforts to become more competitive and more integrated into the global economy. They are particularly vulnerable to shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are disproportionately affected by the lack of resources, information and skills, including to adapt to technological changes, encounter challenges in adapting to different regulatory frameworks and new regulations, and face difficulties in joining regional and global value chains. This is particularly the case for women-owned MSMEs which often have limited access to finance and business opportunities.
With the objective of promoting inclusive economic growth through increased participation of MSMEs in international trade and investment, we endorse the "G20 Policy Guidelines on Boosting MSMEs’ International Competitiveness”. These non-binding and voluntary Policy Guidelines will provide reference to national and international policymaking, notably for participants in the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on MSMEs, that contributes to improving the capacity of MSMEs to connect, compete, change and adapt in the face of emerging technologies and external shocks.
Economic diversification reduces vulnerability to economic shocks and remains an important goal for all countries, particularly developing and least developed countries. The economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic raised our sense of urgency in working to address structural weaknesses and increase the resilience and sustainability of our economies and our value chains inter alia through more diverse production and trade structures. In this regard, we acknowledge that trade in services and special economic zones could foster economic diversification.
We note the "Synthesis Report of Members’ Best Practices and Lessons Learned on Trade in Services”. We recognize the important role that services and services trade play in supporting growth, development and diversification strategies. We further emphasize the importance of continuing constructive discussion on supporting the increased participation of developing countries in services trade, and on increasing economic opportunities for women and youth in particular.
We note the "Synthesis Report of Members’ Best Practices and Lessons Learned on Special Economic Zones (SEZs. Many members consider that SEZs can contribute to investment attraction, economic diversification, industrial upgrading, export growth, job creation and income generation. Members recognize that SEZs should be administered in a manner that ensures compliance with WTO rules and guards against the risk of illicit trade.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) is key for economic growth, job creation and capital accumulation. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate negative effect on international investment flows, adding to the stagnant global investment flows over the past decade, and significantly widening the already-large gap in investment needed to meet the SDGs. In this regard, recalling the voluntary G20 Guiding Principles for Global Investment Policymaking, we are committed to facilitate and strengthen international investment.
We recognize the relationship between industrial, investment and trade policies, especially in our coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, we see value in sharing best practices on promoting investment in productive sectors related to or impacted by COVID-19, and to identifying key areas, such as critical medical supplies and equipment and sustainable agriculture production, where investment is urgently needed.
We note the "Report on FDI Flows and Investment Attraction Frameworks in Developing and Least Developed Countries”, which refers to gaps in investment promotion capabilities and opportunities for improved cooperation in the provision of technical assistance on investment attraction to developing and least developed countries.
Through a "G20 Statement on Technical Assistance for Investment Attraction, we encourage further collaboration among the competent authorities of G20 countries, including in the G20 Development Working Group and with international organizations, within their mandates, to consider additional actions to address gaps in investment-related technical assistance. Way Forward
With a view to ensuring that international trade and investment can effectively contribute to realizing the opportunities of the 21st century for all by overcoming the economic and social effects of the pandemic and shaping a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable world for all, we jointly recommend our Leaders consider these important topics at the Riyadh Summit.
We extend our gratitude to the Saudi G20 Presidency for its determined efforts and leadership. We will submit this Communiqué to the G20 Leaders’ 2020 Summit and will continue our cooperation towards Italy’s G20 Presidency in 2021 and thereafter."