Erdoğan warns G20 leaders against unilateral policies in COVID-19 fight

Erdoğan warns G20 leaders against unilateral policies in COVID-19 fight

Erdoğan warns G20 leaders against unilateral policies in COVID-19 fight

A handout image made available by the Turkish President Press office on March 26, 2020, shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) taking part via video conference in Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders' Summit at Presidential Huber mansion in Istanbul. (Photo by Handout/Turkish Presidential Press Service via AFP)

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned the world’s 20 major industrialized nations that no one can afford to implement protective and unilateral policies during the COVID-19 outbreak, at an emergency virtual summit on March 26.

“I believe that this pandemic has once again reminded us that although our languages, religions and countries are different, we share the same fate. None of us can afford to implement protective and unilateral policies,” he said.

Addressing a virtual gathering of G20 leaders via video conference, Erdoğan stressed that the experience in controlling the pandemic and diagnosing and treating the disease should be shared.

“The coronavirus pandemic has once again underscored the importance of the G20’s spirit of cooperation and reconciliation. We have to be guiding, take on responsibilities and show global cooperation during this process. As we did during the global financial crisis, we must take action immediately and exert joint efforts to ensure global confidence,” he said.

“I invite all countries to participate in the fight against this global health crisis in a just manner until all of humanity can breathe easily,’’ Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan said the countries must “act immediately” as they did during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. “No country has the luxury of implementing protectionist, unilateral policies,” said the president, according to Anadolu Agency.

“All measures to tackle coronavirus should be compatible with WTO [World Trade Organization] rules, and encourage global cooperation,” Erdogan said, adding that the coronavirus outbreak once again demonstrated the importance of cooperation and reconciliation in the G20 bloc. He also urged countries to share their experiences with controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and diagnosing and treating the disease.

He stated that Turkey continues its efforts to produce a coronavirus diagnosis kit and develop vaccine and medicine. Erdoğan drew attention to the importance of helping developing countries, Africa in particular.

“Let me point out that this virus, which poses a threat to all of us, has also given us the opportunity to come together against a common enemy of humanity. As has always been the case, Turkey stands ready to act in solidarity and cooperation in the face of this disaster. I call on all the countries to take part in combating this global health crisis until the entire humanity breathes a sigh of relief,” Erdoğan said.

Accompanying Erdoğan were Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, and Turkey’s G20 Sherpa Hayrettin Demircan.

In addition to Turkey, the G20 leaders taking part included Germany, the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, France, South Africa, South Korea, India, the U.K., Italy, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the EU.

$5 trillion pledge

Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies pledged to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus and "do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic."

Showing more unity than at any time since the G20 was created during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the leaders said they committed during a videoconference summit to implement and fund all necessary health measures needed to stop the virus' spread.

"The G20 is committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic," along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international institutions, they said.

Their statement contained the most conciliatory G20 language on trade in years, pledging to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies and other goods across borders and to resolve supply chain disruptions.

But it stopped well short of calling for an end to export bans that many countries have enacted on medical supplies, with the G20 leaders saying their responses should be coordinated to avoid "unnecessary interference."

"Emergency measures aimed at protecting health will be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary," they said.

The G20 leaders also expressed concern about the risks to fragile countries, notably in Africa, and populations like refugees, acknowledging the need to bolster global financial safety nets and national health systems.

"We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat," the G20 leaders said their statement.

Saudi Arabia, the current G20 chair, called the video summit amid earlier criticism of the group's slow response to the disease. It has infected more than 500,000 people worldwide, killed almost 24,000, and is expected to trigger a global recession.

Saudi King Salman, in opening remarks, said G20 countries should resume the normal flow of goods and services, including vital medical supplies, as soon as possible to help restore confidence in the global economy.

The group said it was "injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures and guarantee schemes" to blunt economic fallout from the pandemic.

The amount is about the same as G20 countries injected to prop up the global economy in 2009. But a U.S. relief bill is pledging $2 trillion in fiscal spending, more than double its commitment from that crisis.

U.S. President Donald Trump said later the videoconference showed "tremendous spirit to get this over with."

He told a White House news briefing on the coronavirus that the G20 countries were keeping each other informed about their efforts to fight the crisis.

"We're handling it a little bit in different ways but there is great uniformity," Trump said.

Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed in a call on Thursday on the importance of cooperation through the G20 and other groupings to help international organizations "eliminate the pandemic quickly and minimize its economic impact," the White House said.

Joint action

The meeting displayed little acrimony despite an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, an observer to the meeting said.

"Everyone realizes that it is essential to preserve jobs, and to maintain trade flows, not disrupt the supply chains," said one Brazilian government official with knowledge of the videoconference discussions.

No country advocated "total confinement," mainly because most of the countries in G20 are not implementing such moves, the official added.

While the group pledged joint action, the leaders' statement lacked the urgency of the 2009 effort, said Mark Sobel, a former U.S. Treasury and International Monetary Fund official.

"It's endorsing what's already being done in various countries but it isn't offering a multilateral, global vision," said Sobel, now affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The G20 leaders also asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group "to support countries in need using all instruments to the fullest extent."

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva plans to ask the Fund's steering committee on Friday to consider doubling the current $50 billion in emergency financing available to help developing countries deal with the virus, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.

To boost global liquidity, Georgieva also asked G20 leaders to back a Fund plan to allow member countries to temporarily draw on part of its $1 trillion in overall resources to boost liquidity. The IMF made a similar move in 2009 with a $250 billion allocation of Special Drawing Rights, its internal unit of currency.

Georgieva gave no specific number in her statement, but observers to the G20 meeting said an SDR allocation of up to $500 billion could be needed.

On the health response, the G20 leaders committed to close the financing gap in the WHO's response plan and strengthen its mandate as well as expand the manufacturing capacity of medical supplies, strengthen capacities to respond to infectious diseases, and share clinical data.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the G20 to seek support for ramping up funding and production of personal protection equipment for health workers amid a global shortage.