Interview: Int'l coordination needed to tide over coronavirus crisis, says Australian economist

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-25 13:19:05|Editor: huaxia

CANBERRA, March 25 (Xinhua) -- International coordination is required to ride out the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, an Australian economist has said.

"Tackling a crisis that knows no borders demands a truly global response," said Peter Drysdale, head of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research at the Australian National University, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

On Tuesday, no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, the former hardest-hit city in central China's Hubei Province.

Drysdale believes that the progress in China will bring hope to other countries combating the pandemic, as well as the global economy.

"But it will require more than that," he noted.

Drysdale stressed that international cooperation required to overcome the current crisis should be driven by the Group of 20 (G20).

A special G20 leaders' video summit on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic will be held on Thursday, hosted by Saudi Arabia, the G20 Presidency in 2020.

"The first priority is for G20 leaders to agree on coordinated action to ensure access to essential medical supplies everywhere in the world," he said.

"Leaders must reverse and commit to avoid export bans or limits on the free flow of all necessary medical supplies, medicines, disinfectant, soap and personal protective equipment," he said.

The economist suggested that national leaders "reduce the costs of necessary medical supplies, for instance, by lifting import taxes, quotas and other government-imposed costs."

Meanwhile, Drysdale pointed out that the pandemic has also dealt a heavy blow to the global economy.

"The impact on the world economy will be big, as industrial economies take a big hit," he said.

"The structural impact of the coronavirus on labour intensive activities and small businesses around the world make this a particularly difficult economic crisis to manage," the economist added.

Drysdale cited some estimates suggesting a 5-10 percent fall in output next quarter globally, despite the substantial fiscal and monetary stimulus packages being rolled out across the world.

"How long this lasts depends not only on success in stemming the spread of the coronavirus but strategies to staunch its economic impact," he said. "Coming through this crisis will demand ramping up international cooperation rapidly."

Therefore, Drysdale said that there are three economic fronts on which the G20 needs to address.

"Leaders should announce a coordinated fiscal stimulus package to address the demand shock...re-commit to their long-standing agreement to avoid competitive exchange rate devaluations... and there must be a collective commitment to keep global supply chains open to address the supply shock," he noted.

"Additionally, leaders must agree to not introduce any new restrictive trade or investment measures, including under the guise of a health response," he said. "Resorting to 'beggar-thy-neighbour' policies during a global health crisis inflicts much more than economic pain on other countries, and ultimately would be a self-inflicting wound."

Dealing with the crisis alone would incur only deeper health and economic costs, the professor noted, emphasizing that "the most effective and legitimate way to do that is through the G20."

Drysdale expressed his belief that while many countries sought to deal with the immediate health crisis with inadequate knowledge and without immediate initial regard and attention to the economic consequences, the G20 needs to task the health and economic ministries with building stronger cooperation arrangements. 

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