BEIJING, March 27 (Xinhua) -- As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) makes social distancing and working from home the new normal, leaders of the Group of 20, home to almost two-thirds of the world's population and about 86 percent of the gross world product, convened Thursday for a virtual summit that sent a clear message: We are in the same boat.
The G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 was the first of its kind in the history of G20, and also the first major multilateral event attended by President Xi Jinping since the outbreak of the COVID-19.
Speaking to his colleagues via video link from Beijing, Xi put forward four proposals to cope with a situation that is "disturbing and unsettling," calling for an all-out global war against the COVID-19 outbreak and enhancing international macro-economic policy coordination to prevent a recession.
"At such a moment, it is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response," Xi said. "We must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against such a major infectious disease."
In a demonstration of the need for greater global coordination and solidarity, the G20 members were joined by leaders from invited countries including hard-hit Spain as well as multiple international organizations including the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
While previous G20 summits often discussed high-stake topics like economic recession and boosting development policy, Thursday's emergency meeting came at a time when the world is grappling with a dicey pandemic and concerns are mounting over the "black swan" event that could derail the global economy.
As China's epidemic prevention and control are continuously improving, and the trend of an accelerated restoration of normal production and life is being consolidated and expanded, his remarks at the G20 summit are timely and of critical importance for countries now fighting at the front lines of a battle to stem the pandemic and forestalling a recession.
UNITED WE STAND
The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide topped 462,684, with 20,834 deaths as of 10 a.m. Central European Time, Thursday, according to the data kept by the WHO. The economic toll is also climbing as more businesses and trade come to a grinding halt amid massive lockdowns.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is endangering countries rich and poor, large and small, strong and weak alike," said Wei Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges and former vice minister of Commerce. "We are now at a critical juncture of fighting the pandemic and stabilizing the global economy, and the international community expects the G20 to play a leading role."
The significance and urgency of Thursday's meeting hark back to scenarios in the depth of the global financial crisis in 2008 when meetings of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors were raised to the level of heads of state and government for better crisis coordination. What's different is that grave challenges facing the world today have led to warnings of a downturn even worse than in 2008.
"This pandemic will inevitably have an enormous impact on the economy," WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a video clip posted on the website of the organization. "Recent projections predict an economic downturn and job losses that are worse than the global financial crisis a dozen years ago."
To prevent the world economy from falling into recession, Xi said countries need to leverage and coordinate their macro policies to counteract the negative impact as the outbreak has disrupted production and demand across the globe.
"We need to implement strong and effective fiscal and monetary policies to keep our exchange rates basically stable. We need to better coordinate financial regulation to keep global financial markets stable. We need to jointly keep the global industrial and supply chains stable," he told the summit in a speech titled "Working Together to Defeat the COVID-19 Outbreak."
Xi's remarks on fighting as one echoed. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said: "We project a contraction of global output in 2020, and recovery in 2021. How deep the contraction and how fast the recovery depends on the speed of containment of the pandemic and on how strong and coordinated our monetary and fiscal policy actions are."
"We will get through this crisis together. Together we will lay the ground for a faster and stronger recovery," she said in a statement released after the conference call.
The important lesson in international solidarity is often forgotten when things are going fine, William Jones, Washington bureau chief of the U.S. publication Executive Intelligence Review, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"The experience with the COVID-19 will hopefully lead to more collaborative efforts between countries and strengthen the notion of a community with a shared destiny," he said.
As China is a key driver of global economic growth, its economic performance bears great significance on the outlook of global recovery. In a strong morale and practical boost, Xi reaffirmed China would actively contribute to the global war against COVID-19 and a stable world economy.
"Guided by the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, China will be more than ready to share its good practices, conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines, and provide assistance where it can to countries hit by the growing outbreak," Xi said.
Xi said China will contribute to a stable world economy by continuing to advance reform and opening-up, widen market access, improve the business environment and expand imports and outbound investment, and called on all G20 members to take collective actions -- cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade.
The country is beefing up wider opening-up to foreign investment. Revision of the negative list on foreign investment is underway as part of the plan to improve business environment and expand the catalog of industries where foreign investment is encouraged.
New editions of the list will probably be released in May, expanding market access of the tertiary sector, such as health care, aged service, finance, transportation, logistics, tourism, education and training and value-added services of telecommunications, said Zhang Fei with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
Noting that a global solution is needed to address the global challenge brought about by the pandemic, Azevedo said cross-border trade and investment flows have a role to play in efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and will be vital for fostering a stronger recovery once the medical emergency subsides.
"No country is self-sufficient, no matter how powerful or advanced it may be. Trade is what allows for the efficient production and supply of basic goods and services, medical supplies and equipment, food and energy that we all need," he said.