Remarks by Angel Gurría
30 March 2020
(as prepared for delivery)
G20 Leaders convened last week to make a strong and urgent call for increased cooperation to address the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19. We estimate the loss in annual GDP growth in 2020 at 2 ppt. per month of confinement. Many economies are heading into recession. In this extremely challenging context, there are 4 things we can do to keep trade flowing and essential supply chains functioning:
First, we can boost confidence in trade, investment and global markets by improving transparency. I support Roberto’s call for countries to share information with the WTO on trade related measures they are taking. At the OECD we will work closely with WTO and UNCTAD colleagues in monitoring country actions on COVID-19 and will share our assessments of likely impacts.
Second, we need to keep global supply chains moving, especially for essentials. Instead of erecting more barriers, we can speed up border checks for medical products and food, by digitising and expediting formalities. We can also facilitate international medical research on COVID-19 by enabling the cross-border transfer of sensitive data to monitor epidemics and promoting secure sandboxes to pool health data on COVID-19. And we can agree to eliminate tariffs on medical supplies and on the ICT goods that keep us connected. Going forward, the OECD also stands ready to leverage its Trade in Value Added data to help governments be better prepared for future risks and identify supply chain vulnerabilities in advance.
Third, we need to avoid making things worse. We are once again starting to see export restrictions on agro-food products which are counterproductive for food security. With regards to medical supplies, while some countries are lowering tariffs on them, or committing to keep supply chains open , export restrictions on medical supplies have been introduced in over 40 countries. G20 Members must instead pledge to cooperate on the smooth flow of goods and services necessary for the crisis and its aftermath.
Lastly, we need to look beyond the immediate. Governments are rightly providing significant support to firms and capacity but these subsidies should not become sources of the unfair competition once the crisis is over.
Trade and access to global demand will help our economies recover. A de-escalation of trade tensions, which were already weakening the global economy, could also provide a much needed confidence boost to economic operators. As you act together, count on the OECD’s support.