G20 ministers step-up dialogue on trade

Monday, September 17, 2018

G20 trade and investment ministers have used their meeting in Argentina to encourage each other to collectively and individually continue to generate ideas to ensure that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) continues to be relevant.

The ministers met in the resort city of Mar del Plata in Argentina on Friday. The meeting was held to strengthen G20 trade and investment cooperation under the overall objective of the G20 Argentinean Presidency of “building consensus for fair and sustainable development”, taking into consideration national needs, priorities and circumstances.

“We stepped up our dialogue on current international trade developments, recognising the urgent need to discuss current events in international trade and ways to improve the WTO to face current and future challenges.

“In this context, we discussed what the G20 can do to address the current situation in a collaborative manner,” said the trade ministers on Friday.

Their session included South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Prior to leaving South Africa to attend the session, Davies expressed concern with current global developments.

“The G20 trade ministers’ meeting is taking place at a time when the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges. Of concern is the rise of trade measures that are not compatible with the WTO.

“The G20 trade ministers’ meeting will provide an opportunity for a dialogue on current developments in international trade and its implications for the global economy,” Davies said.

At their meeting, the leaders stressed that international trade and investment continue to be important engines of growth.

“International trade and investment continue to be important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development. Rapid technological advances are transforming the world economy at an unprecedented level.

“Economic growth remains robust, while trade shows signs of recovery since the financial crisis, with an increase of 4.7% in 2017 and a projected increase of 4.4% for 2018,” the ministers said.

The leaders, however, noted that there are downside risks, vulnerabilities and that growing inequality could affect confidence and the prospects for strong, balanced and sustainable growth.

G20 countries also pledged to work together to enhance sustainable economic growth, keep markets open, address economic development and reinvigorate the international trading system.

Inclusive Global Value Chains

On the issue of global value chains (GVCs), the G20 countries said these have produced deep transformations in patterns of production, trade and specialisation around the world.

They also highlighted the importance of agro-food GVCs as a means to achieve a sustainable food future.

“We welcomed the inventory of national experiences, programs, policies and practices on trade and investment aspects of agro-food GVCs. We also welcomed the discussion of key factors for G20 trade and investment policy-making options to support the participation and increasing value-addition in agro-food GVCs, which can particularly benefit developing countries,” the leaders said.

They said national policies to support women and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are also important, as they can help to improve access to markets, foster opportunities for value-addition, and create jobs in rural areas to contribute to agricultural productivity and income for small producers.

New Industrial Revolution 

The leaders noted that the expansive and transformative changes brought about by the New Industrial Revolution (NIR) and the adoption of digital technologies across all industries has wide-ranging implications for the scope, scale, speed and patterns of production, trade and investment.

“The NIR has the potential not only to increase productivity, but also to transform comparative advantages among countries and break down the traditional boundary between the physical and the digital world and between goods and services.”

The leaders also welcomed the discussion of factors for G20 policy-making options to face the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that the NIR poses for trade and investment flows, with particular attention to MSMEs, developing countries and women.

For South Africa, the G20 engagements provide a platform to discuss, assess and advance economic and policy issues, and for knowledge transfer on policy practices to foster the country’s development objectives.

It also provides a platform for the exchange of views on the current developments in global trade.

The G20 ministers recommended that these issues be discussed at the Buenos Aires Summit in November. - SAnews.gov.za