WITA Webinar: Global Trade Initiatives to Combat COVID-19
Wendy Cutler with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA)
On Thursday, April 2, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), along with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA), cohosted a webinar about how the international trade community can combat COVID-19. ASPI Vice President Wendy Cutler and WITA Executive Director Ken Levinson were joined by Julia Neilson of the OECD, Colin Bird of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and Brody Sinclair from the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, D.C.
They discussed recent statements issued by G20 leaders and trade ministers, and debated how effective and ambitious the twenty largest global economies were being during this international health crisis. "In assessing and analyzing the statements, I think a lot depends on what your expectations are," Cutler said. "In a world where both the United States and Chinese trade and overall tensions are increasing, where there's a vacuum in leadership, and where there's no face-to-face meetings, one can argue it's kind of remarkable the G20 could put on paper the kind of commitments and principles they shared, with a lot of emphasis on cooperation." However, Cutler noted that, compared with the G20's response to the 2008 global financial crisis, the group's current response has been disappointing.
The panelists underscored the importance of maintaining and using the world's existing trade links to address the challenges presented by the pandemic, rather than having each country fend for itself. "The guiding principle that [the G20 trade ministers] put out there was international solidarity," said Bird.
Neilson outlined the recommendations offered by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría about how countries can best respond to the crisis, saying, "There's a certain dimension to this about not making it worse." On the subject of export restrictions on food Neilson elaborated, "The risk of creating a problem where there isn't one is really high," and she alluded to previous price spikes in food markets during global crises.
On a more positive note, Sinclair highlighted encouraging moves that have taken place in recent weeks, with medium-sized countries filling the vacuum of leadership left by bigger countries. He pointed to a recent initiative by New Zealand and six Pacific partners to keep supply chains open and refrain from imposing trade barriers on essential goods.
See more about the webinar on WITA's website.