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

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman led an extraordinary meeting of the Group of 20 leaders last week, who discussed ways to coordinate global efforts against the coronavirus pandemic and limit its humanitarian and economic impact. (SPA)
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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.


Crude prices surge as OPEC+ agrees to extend cuts

Updated 06 June 2020

Crude prices surge as OPEC+ agrees to extend cuts

  • The eagerly awaited gathering comes as oil exporters globally are hurt by low prices

DUBAI: Crude oil prices on Friday surged on international markets after the OPEC+ alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, reached a deal to continue supply limits at their present historic level.

After a week of negotiation, a virtual meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was expected to take place on Saturday to formally seal the agreement to keep combined cuts at 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) for at least another month.

Last-minute worries about Iraq, which had held out over committing to its share of the cuts, were overcome with a pledge by Baghdad to stick to the agreed limits and to make up any shortfall in the coming months, according to an official from one of the OPEC delegate countries.

In a speech in Washington, D.C., US President Donald Trump praised the work of OPEC+ in rebalancing the oil market. “We saved that industry (US oil) in a short period of time, and you know who helped us? Saudi Arabia and Russia and others. We got them to cut back substantially,” he said.

The deal struck in April to cut an unprecedented 9.7 million bpd, reinforced by an extra 1 million bpd voluntary cut by Saudi Arabia and smaller amounts by the UAE and Kuwait, has been credited with pulling global oil markets back from the brink of collapse.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, jumped nearly 6 percent in European trading, to stand above $42 per barrel. Oil prices have more than doubled since “Black Monday” on April 20, when West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the American benchmark, fell briefly into negative territory largely because of trading technicalities.

WTI was trading at more than $39 on Friday, raising the possibility that some of the US production lost due to well shut-ins and corporate failures might come back onto the market.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman was due to address the OPEC+ meeting in his capacity as co-chairman of the joint ministerial monitoring committee (JMMC).

“The conditions right now warrant hopefully successful meetings. Coordination is under way to hold OPEC and OPEC+ meetings tomorrow afternoon,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was quoted as saying by Reuters.

According to an official, the prince was expected to stress the need for vigilant monitoring by OPEC+ of supply limits.

UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei, urged producers to improve their compliance with agreed cuts.

“As a representative of the UAE, I find it disappointing and unacceptable that some of the largest producers with capacity like (Saudi Arabia) and Russia comply 100 percent or more while other major producers do less than 50 percent,” he wrote in the letter seen by Reuters.

Iraq and Nigeria have been regarded as the biggest laggards on compliance in the OPEC+ partnership, both arguing that their financial needs required them to sell as much oil as possible. Last week Nigeria indicated its willingness to adhere to the limits.

Wrangling with Iraq continued into Friday until a breakthrough was finally reached, and Baghdad promised to abide by the terms of the original deal and stick to compliance agreements.

Monthly meetings of OPEC’s JMMC will take place until the end of the year to monitor compliance levels among OPEC+ countries, and to assess the overall state of the market.

There has been no decision as yet on whether Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries will continue the extra 1 million bpd cuts, which could expire at the end of this month.

Oil-market sentiment was also lifted by a surprise fall in American unemployment, taken as a sign that the US economy could recover more strongly than expected.

Global oil exporters have come under intense pressure this year as the pandemic stifles the beginning of a recovery in energy investment that had started to materialize.

At the start of the year, global energy investment was expected to rise 2 percent in 2020, its biggest growth in six years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) had predicted. Instead, the Paris-based organization now expects global investment in energy to plunge by 20 percent this year — the equivalent of $400 billion.

 

(With Reuters)