G20 Foreign Affairs’ Ministers’ Meeting


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

3 September 2020 - Paris, France

(As prepared for delivery - (Virtual))






Dear Ministers,

COVID19 has triggered a health and economic crisis of a magnitude never seen before. Many economies have shrunk at an annualised rate of up to 20% in the second quarter of 2020. The hardest hit are expected to have declines of around 10% of GDP for the full year. Looking ahead, we expect a slow and halting recovery until an effective vaccine or treatment is found. In the meantime, extremely high uncertainty will continue to weigh on activity across the globe.

Amongst the necessary measures put in place by countries to limit the spread of the virus, restrictions on the international flow of people, goods and services is the one that has impacted the economy more significantly.

All G20 countries took action to restrict international movements, close national borders, and/or impose entry bans. Despite some exemptions for specific categories of migrants in essential sectors, migration flows have come to a halt. This is unprecedented in global history!

We can expect a simultaneously strong decline in demand-driven labour migration and at the same time increased migration pressure due to the severe impact of the crisis in developing countries, compounded by a projected 20% fall in remittances to low-and-middle-income countries over 2020.

Travel restrictions have also contributed to a 60 to 80% decline in the international tourism economy in 2020, one of the hardest-hit sectors.

Similarly on trade, our latest data point to a decline of around 15% in world merchandise trade in the second quarter—in part due to government policies restricting the cross-border flow of goods and services. Trade was already slowing because of the pre-covid trade tensions. Then came COVID and made it worse.

No country is able to meet its own needs for the range of products necessary to combat COVID-19. In fact, some governments have taken measures to facilitate trade, in particular for essential products, for example by increasing the use of digital tools to facilitate border processes.

The lesson is clear: trade, based on resilient global supply chains, is part of the solution to global shortages, to overcoming the pandemic and to ensuring the recovery.



Whether it is around the flow of people or of goods across borders, all countries will benefit from international coordination of border management and should make sure that restrictive measures, when necessary, be "focused, proportional, transparent and temporary” as per G20 Leaders and Trade Ministers’ commitment. This is essential to decrease the costs of border closures, ensure the flow of essential goods, services and workers, and prevent retaliatory measures from becoming a driver of policy.

Count on the OECD to continue providing the evidence base that will help you foster this interconnectedness we all benefit from, and to design better policies in response to this unprecedented challenge.



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