G-20 leaders vow to coordinate virus response in video call

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a teleconference with G-20 leaders amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The leaders of the Group of 20 major economies pledged Thursday to make every effort to ride out the COVID-19 crisis, saying they will ensure the cross-border flow of key response materials, including medical supplies and agricultural products. They also agreed to continue "bold and large-scale fiscal support" to minimize the negative impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, according to a joint statement adopted during their special video conference.

The Group of 20 nations, which faces criticism for not taking cohesive action against the virus or its economic impact, vowed to work together. The group said they are collectively injecting more than $4.8 trillion into the global economy to counteract the social and financial impacts of the pandemic.

In a final statement after the meeting, the G20 said they were committed to strengthening the World Health Organization’s mandate. They said “global action, solidarity and international cooperation” were needed more than ever. "The G-20 is committed to doing whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic," along with such international organization as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the statement read. “This human crisis requires a global response. The world counts on us to come together and cooperate in order to face this challenge,” the Saudi monarch said during the virtual summit.

The meeting was not open to the media to observe. Governments and organizations distributed the comments of participants after the meeting concluded. World leaders like India’s Narendra Modi, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, whose wife contracted the virus, could be seen in little boxes on a screen seated at desks in photos from

European Council President Charles Michel. US President Donald Trump was shown seated at the end of a long conference table in Washington with other American officials in photos shared by the Saudi Foreign Ministry. The meeting also included Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was taking part in the summit from her apartment in Berlin where she is in quarantine after a doctor who gave her a pneumonia vaccine had tested positive for the virus. Two tests on Merkel have come back negative, but she’ll still need more tests.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested setting up a special fund under the IMF that would offer interest-free loans, and he emphasized the need to create “green corridors” for free movement of supplies and technologies intended to deal with the epidemic. He also proposed a moratorium on sanctions with regard to essential goods. Putin noted “it’s a matter of life and death,” emphasizing the need to get rid of “political rubbish.” He did not name any specific country but appeared to refer to US sanctions on Iran, which has been badly hit by the outbreak. Russia has also faced waves of Western sanctions over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea

The G-20 leaders, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said the 19 member states and the European Union will "work to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders and work to resolve disruptions to the global supply chains." On trade, the leaders vowed partnerships to facilitate that and coordinate responses "in ways that avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade." The statement added, "We will continue to conduct bold and large-scale fiscal support. Collective G-20 action will amplify its impact, ensure coherence, and harness synergies."

They asked finance ministers and central bank governors to regularly coordinate to develop a G-20 action plan over COVID-19. "We stand ready to react promptly and take any further action that may be required. We express our readiness to convene again as the situation requires," the document read. "Global action,solidarity and international cooperation are more than ever necessary to address this pandemic."

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