At G20 meet, trade ministers agree on 3 key deliverables

ByRajeev Jayaswal
Aug 26, 2023 12:45 AM IST

Trade ministers of G20 countries have agreed on three key actions to boost global trade and investments: mapping global value chains to make them disruption-proof, integrating micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with global trade, and digitising trade documents for cost efficiency and time savings. However, the two-day meeting concluded without a joint statement due to differences over references to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The recommendations from the meeting will be forwarded to the G20 leaders who will meet in September.

Jaipur: Trade ministers of G20 countries on Friday agreed on three key action-oriented deliverables – mapping of global value chains to make them disruption proof, integrating micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with the global trade, and digitising trade documents for cost efficiency and time overrun.

Piyush Goyal (Sanjay Sharma)
Piyush Goyal (Sanjay Sharma)

Commerce minister Piyush Goyal, who chaired the two-day Trade and Investment Ministers’ Meeting (TIMM) in Jaipur, told reporters that the three points were “the juice of this agreement” and the 17-page Outcome Document and Chair’s Summary was “powerful, strong and action-oriented document” to boost trade and investments.

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TIMM was, however, concluded without a joint statement because of differences among some members over references to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “Barring one point (para 32), there has been a consensus among all members over all matters containing in the document,” a commerce ministry official who asked not to be named said. The document has 35 paragraphs and three annexures. A joint statement signifies complete consensus on all matters.

When asked about the lack of one, Goyal put this down to differences over geopolitical issues. Every country in the room agreed on trade and investment related outcomes “in totality” because they concerned “collective good of international trade and humanity”, he said. “It’s a 17-page statement, only one paragraph 32, which is probably one quarter of the page, is an area where we could not get consensus for obvious reasons,” he added.

According to the officially released document, Russia and China stated their distinct positions on paragraph 32. “Russia rejected the inclusion of geopolitical Para 32, on the basis that it does not conform to the G20 mandate and recognises the status of the Para 32 as Chair’s Summary. Russia agrees with the rest of the text,” the document said. “China stated that the G20 TIMM is not the right forum to discuss geopolitical issues and did not support the inclusion of the geopolitical-related content,” it added.

Para 32 spoke of the war in Ukraine adding to the woes of global trade. “Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy by constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity crisis, and elevating financial stability risks… Recognising that G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy,” the para in question said.

G20 comprises 19 countries -- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, and the US -- and the European Union. The G20 members represent around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.

Highlighting the key outcomes, Goyal said there is a need to ensure global value chains (GVCs) overcome vulnerabilities to disruptions. The minister underscored the importance of open, inclusive, resilient, sustainable, diversified and reliable GVCs, where GVC-mapping can help members in identifying opportunities for building resilience. The document endorsed “voluntary and non-binding” generic framework for mapping GVCs. Goyal added that India stands to gain immensely because it has emerged as a reliable supplier of goods and services across the globe.

The minister said that G20 countries are in favour of strengthening MSMEs for inclusive growth and development even as they face innumerable challenges related to market-related information, technology and finances. Calling the drive to support MSMEs, Goyal said it is “the Jaipur call for action”.

“We believe that its successful implementation through an upgrade of International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Global Trade Helpdesk will support the accessibility of trade-related information and will spur the integration of MSMEs in world trade,” the official document said.

Stressing that MSMEs face significant impediments across the globe, the ministers in the official document stressed on the work programme on e-commerce. “G20 participants in Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce encourage and support the active participation of all WTO members in the initiative, and look forward to meaningful progress in the lead up to MC13,” the document said. “We note the concerns that have been expressed on rule-making by some G20 members that are not part of Joint Statement Initiatives. To ensure rapid digital enablement of MSMEs, we underscore the importance of lowering entry barriers for them on digital platforms,” the official document said.

Elaborating the third key point, Goyal said the ministers endorsed digitalisation of trade-related documents required for efficiency and economy. “We believe that the widespread adoption of paperless trade will drive productivity gains and economic growth by reducing trade costs and lowering barriers to entry for MSMEs, including women-owned or women-led MSMEs,” the document said. Recognition of electronic trade documents as equivalent to their paper counterparts will support such a transition, it added.

TIMM’s recommendations will be forwarded to the G20 leaders who will meet on September 9-10 in New Delhi, the official mentioned above said. It is hoped that many of these recommendations would be accepted at the Leadership Summit.

Assessing the overall situation at TIMM, the participating ministers noted that near-term prospects of global trade and investment look “uncertain” as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) predicted that growth in cross-border trade would remain subdued at 1.7% in 2023. “Mounting challenges are adversely affecting predictability and resilience of global trade — aggravating poverty and inequality — and negatively impacting achievement of sustainable development objectives,” the document said.

The G20 countries reaffirmed the essential role of the multilateral trading system with World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core, but stressed on the need to reform it through a member-driven, open, inclusive and transparent process. They emphasised on reforms in systems such as dispute settlement by 2024. “We will continue to work constructively to ensure positive outcomes, including on WTO reforms at the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13),” they said in the document. MC13 will be held in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

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