The G20 Trade and Investment Ministers released a Communiqué following a virtual meeting held under the G20 Saudi Presidency.
The document includes a summary of discussions held as part of the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO, which offers an additional opportunity for members to work towards reform of the organization.
G20 policy guidelines on boosting MSMEs’ international competitiveness, two synthesis reports on G20 members’ best practices and lessons learned on trade in services and special economic zones, and a G20 statement on technical assistance for investment attraction feature as annexes.
The Group of 20 (G20) Trade and Investment Ministers have pledged to continue their cooperation to support recovery of international trade and investment, support the reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), encourage greater international competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), foster economic diversification, and strengthen international investment.
In a Communiqué, published after a virtual ministerial meeting on 22 September 2020, the ministers expand upon each of these commitments, and recommend that “these important topics” be considered by leaders at the G20 Leaders Summit in Riyadh in November. The Communiqué includes a summary of discussions under the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO, G20 policy guidelines on boosting MSMEs’ international competitiveness, two synthesis reports on G20 members’ best practices and lessons learned on trade in services and special economic zones (SEZs), and a G20 statement on technical assistance for investment attraction.
The G20 Trade and Investment Working Group Chair’s Summary of discussions held as part of the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO notes that “by identifying common ground of WTO objectives and trade policy principles under the Riyadh Initiative, the G20 can play an important role in providing political support for reform discussions.” The summary notes that G20 discussions on the multilateral trading system and the future of the WTO revolve around a set of four strategic questions. The questions cover: how the multilateral system can advance shared objectives relating to growth, productivity, innovation, job creation, and development; foundational principles and underlying objectives; forward-looking policy visions; and sources of policy principles.
G20 Policy Guidelines on boosting international competitiveness of MSMEs, which account for 95% of all firms globally, aim to help national and international policy makers ensure that MSMEs are supported on resilience, access to information, technology, digital, finance, compliance with standards, technical regulations, and connections to supply chains, among other areas. Such efforts, the ministers note, serve to not only augment MSMEs’ capacity to compete internationally through upgraded capabilities and trade facilitation, but also empower them to contribute to realizing inclusive economic growth and other elements of the SDGs.
On fostering economic diversification, the ministers highlight that trade in services and special economic zones (SEZs) can help reduce vulnerability to economic shocks and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ‘Synthesis Report of Members’ Best Practices and Lessons Learned on Trade in Services’ notes that trade in services has expanded faster than trade in goods over the last decade and that services have played an increasing role in international trade and investment. Services, it underscores, serve as inputs to other economic activities, can have lower entry costs, and are considered by many as a means to achieving goals on women empowerment and youth employment.
The ‘Synthesis Report of Members’ Best Practices and Lessons Learned on Special Economic Zones (SEZs)’ emphasizes that SEZs are widely used in the majority of G20 members and can carry benefits around export growth, job creation, regional development, and elevated environmental standards. The report flags, however, that concerns remain in areas of tax fraud, intellectual property rights infringement, and money laundering, among other illegal activities. Factors that can enable success of SEZs include a strategic focus, access to intermodal transport or proximity to ports or large cities, an independent regulator or SEZ authority, and appropriate incentives and supporting services. The report summarizes good practices in SEZ development, including zone evaluation and monitoring and investment facilitation measures.
The ‘G20 Statement on Technical Assistance for Investment Attraction’ highlights the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI).
The Communiqué concludes by recognizing the relationship between industrial, investment, and trade policies. It also notes the process underway to select the WTO’s next Director-General, which is set to conclude by 7 November 2020. [G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting Communique]