Economic ministers from the 10 Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members and eight other nations, including India, the US and China, have highlighted the importance of strengthening regional supply chains to make them resilient in times of heightened challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to spur economic growth.
As per a joint statement after the 8th East Asia Summit (Economic Ministers’ Meeting) held on Friday, the ministers “reaffirmed their commitment to promote trade and investment, minimise disruptions to trade and global supply chains and facilitate supply chain connectivity, including for essential goods such as medical supplies, medicines, including vaccines, food, commodities and other essential supplies and services in the region”.
Speaking on this occasion, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal reiterated that the Modi government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative “does not mean a protectionist India”. But it is about “upscaling the growth of Indian industry, its skills and capabilities to make them resilient and less vulnerable to shocks and integrating our industries with the global supply chains,” he said.
Reiterating their support for the “necessary reform” of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the ministers pledged to continue to work together “to realise a free, fair, transparent, nondiscriminatory, predictable, and stable trade environment, and affirmed the importance of agreed-upon rules in the WTO”.
“The ministers agreed that any trade restrictive emergency measures put in place to address the impact of Covid-19 must be targeted, proportionate, transparent, temporary, consistent with WTO rules and do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption of global and regional supply chains,” according to the joint statement released Saturday.
The meeting comes at a critical juncture when the pandemic has not just posed an unprecedented health crisis but also caused a sharp contraction in economic activities, disrupting trade and investments.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted a 4.9 per cent contraction for 2020 global GDP, warning that the Covid-19 outbreak has plunged the global economy into its worst recession since the Great Depression in 1930s. The WTO, too, had in April warned that global trade volume growth could crash by 13-32 per cent in 2020.
The meeting was chaired by Vietnam’s Industry and Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh.
Apart from Goyal, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and economic ministers from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Australia and New Zealand also attended the virtual meeting. FE
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