Saudi G20 faces up to global challenges

Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the Saudi Arabia’s finance minister.
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Updated 26 January 2020

Saudi G20 faces up to global challenges

  • Riyadh summit’s top three priorities will be empowerment, environment and tech change, minister tells Davos

DAVOS: The G20 summit to be held in Saudi Arabia later this year will help the world resolve some of its biggest challenges in geopolitics, climate change and social issues, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the Kingdom’s finance minister, told delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

“Fortunately, the world is becoming more connected as well, and that means we can think about solutions through consensus,” he said at a special session on the Kingdom’s strategic priorities ahead of the G20. 

Al-Jadaan said that the top three priorities for the summit were empowerment, the environment and technological change. 

“We have to continue empowering people — women, young people, small- business people,” he said. 

Another big priority was “protecting planet Earth, and at the centre of that is climate change,” but the “most ambitious” was the search for “new frontiers in technology and innovation that is shaping the world,” he said. 

G20 summits in the past have played a big role in stabilizing global financial systems, especially during the crisis of 2009. Al-Jadaan said that would be a “very significant element” of the Saudi presidency, and he highlighted sustainable growth, debt vulnerabilities and the prospect of digital taxation as three financial focal points for the Riyadh G20 Summit. 

Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia was not a newcomer to the G20. “We have been involved for some time, and that is in recognition of the Kingdom being a vital part of the modern world,” he said. 

He added that the Saudi energy industry — Saudi Aramco being the biggest oil company in the world — played a key role in the global economy and was therefore a crucial member of the G20. “There is only one country in the world that has excess capacity in the oil market, and that is being used to mitigate the problems we face from wars, conflict and disasters.” 

Davos delegates also heard that women in Saudi Arabia had gender equality with men in the workplace after recent advances in employment across the country. 

Iman Al-Mutairi, assistant minister for commerce and investment, said that the Kingdom was the top performer in a recent World Bank survey of employment and that it had reached the average global level of gender equality. “We have gender equality now. Women can be builders, welders, fireman and lots of other professions. We are serious about inclusiveness,” she said. 

Al-Mutairi was speaking at a special session of the WEF on the strategic priorities of the Kingdom 

She said that the progress made by Saudi Arabia sent a strong message to the Arab and Islamic world about Saudi Arabia’s modernization plans, but more remained to be done. “We have to keep reskilling women, especially in finance, artificial intelligence and other STEM subjects. 

“Saudi Arabia has to act immediately and spread this ‘good virus’ to our neighbors,” she added. 

Other Saudi members of the top level panel reinforced her comments about importance of inclusion as an element of the G20 agenda. Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, the Kingdom’s minister of economy, said that making progress towards the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) would also be a big priority. “Every one of the 17 SDGs is addressed in the G20 agenda. We want the summit to take action and be practical,” he said. 

He was uncertain whether the world could meet all of the SDGs by the target date of 2030, though. “We will achieve a lot by 2030, but much depends on how other global institutions deal with policymaking and financial aspects of the SDG targets,” he said. 

Abdullah Alswaha, the Kingdom’s minister for communications and information technology, said that the biggest challenge of the G20 presidency was with regard to new technology.

“How do we make sure that artificial intelligence and new technology acts in the interest of human kind?” he asked, adding that the digital world was a major potential source of employment. 

The digital world was also a “social equalizer, but the analog world is polarized, so it needs to come together in the digital world.”  

Al-Swaha highlighted the need for cyber-resilience in modern technology. “In a few years’ time quantum computers will be able to decrypt most of the encryption mechanism that are in place today,” he said. 

Prince Abdul Aziz said that the environment remained a top priority for the Saudi energy industry. “We have to provide energy for the world, and still deal with climate change. If we’re going to be good G20 hosts, we have to have ideas and suggestions on these issues.” 

He added that the G20 would highlight the role of the energy industry in reducing harmful emissions and utilizing the potential for carbon capture technologies. It would also showcase the Neom mega-project, and its emphasis on renewable energy and hydrogen fuels, as well as developments in climate-friendly fuels. 

Al-Jadaan said the success of the G20 would be judged according to how it implemented existing policy initiatives, advanced new concepts being developed in the Kingdom, and showcased Saudi Arabia as a destination for tourists and business visitors.

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G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

Updated 31 March 2020

G20 ministers agree to keep markets open, tackle pandemic supply disruptions

  • G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak
  • The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000

RIYADH/WASHINGTON: Trade ministers from the Group of 20 major economies agreed on Monday to keep their markets open and ensure the continued flow of vital medical supplies, equipment and other essential goods as the world battles the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
G20 leaders pledged last week to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus outbreak, while working to ease supply disruptions caused by border closures by national governments anxious to limit transmission of the virus.
In a joint statement issued after a videoconference, the trade ministers pledged to take “immediate necessary measures” to facilitate trade, incentivize additional production of equipment and drugs, and minimize supply chain disruptions.
They agreed that all emergency measures should be “targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary,” while sticking to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and not creating “unnecessary barriers” to trade.
They also vowed to work to prevent profiteering and unjustified price increases, and keep supplies flowing on an affordable and equitable basis.
“As we fight the pandemic both individually and collectively and seek to mitigate its impacts on international trade and investment, we will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the ministers said.
They agreed to notify the WTO about any trade-related measures taken to keep global supply chains running and said they would convene again as necessary.
The ministers, however, stopped short of explicitly calling for an end to export bans that many countries, including G20 members France, Germany and India, have enacted on drugs and medical supplies. A key adviser to US President Donald Trump is working on new rules to expand “Buy America” mandates to the medical equipment and pharmaceutical sectors, something that dozens of business groups said could worsen shortages.
The joint statement included the phrase “consistent with national requirements” already used by G20 leaders, which experts say could provide a loophole for protectionist barriers.
Lack of protective medical gear is putting doctors and nurses at risk. Many countries rely on China, the source of the outbreak, for drug ingredients and are struggling to avoid shortages after lockdown measures prompted by the epidemic held up supplies and delayed shipments.
Supply chains are backing up as air freight capacity plunges and companies struggle to find truck drivers and shipping crews. Europe and the United States are short of tens of thousands of freight containers. Shippers struggle with crew shortages and quarantines at ports. Agriculture is also being disrupted.
The ministerial video conference was attended by representatives from the WTO, World Health Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A senior World Bank official urged G20 members to agree to refrain from imposing new export restrictions on critical medical supplies, food or other key products, and to eliminate or reduce tariffs on imports of key products.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the ministers during the meeting that the pandemic had revealed vulnerabilities in the US economy caused by over-dependence on cheap medical supplies from other countries. He did not reference the “Buy America” rule specifically, but said Washington was encouraging diversification and wanted to promote more domestic manufacturing to produce more suppliers for the United States and others.
G20 finance ministers and central bankers will also meet virtually, on Tuesday, for the second time in just over a week to continue coordinating their response, the Saudi G20 secretariat said, as worries grow about the debt crisis looming over poorer countries.
Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told counterparts that both the public and private sectors should try to avoid shutting supply networks to enable an early resumption of economic activities.
The coronavirus has infected nearly 738,500 people worldwide and killed some 35,000, and has plunged the world into a global recession, according to International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva.