In 2020, the world is facing unprecedented challenges to combat the COVID-19 crisis and its many nefarious effects. We certainly live in exceptional times. For this reason, I have actively participated in the response given by G20 leaders, who acted swiftly and responsibly when recognising, in the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit Statement on 26 March, the need for a balanced response to the serious crises in health, economy, trade and international cooperation.
Measures adopted to overcome the pandemic have resulted in both failures and successes, which should serve as lessons for us all. If, on the one hand, nation-states played a central role in combatting COVID-19 and protecting the economy, on the other, cooperation in the international system proved to be flawed and restricted.
Many argue that the pandemic shows us the need for more ‘multilateralism’. But it is difficult to back such a thesis when we observe the behaviour of the World Health Organization, which, since the beginning of the crisis, has issued contradictory recommendations and comments, some often to the point of inconsequence, creating disorientation and animosity, failing in its role of coordinating the efforts of its member states and, instead, trying to impose itself on them.
To put it clearly: at the heart of this crisis, there is a multilateral organisation that has failed. How, then, are we to learn from the pandemic the lesson that we need in view of such behaviour? We do not need more multilateralism. We need better multilateral institutions.
Our government has therefore been supporting ongoing efforts to assess the quality of the international response, especially the ability of the World Health Organization to act appropriately. We need more efficient mechanisms to monitor and address potential new outbreaks.
We advocate universal, equitable and affordable access to vaccines, diagnostic tests and safe treatments against COVID-19. That is why we are undertaking international arrangements and initiatives such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, COVAX, the Solidarity Trial and Solidarity Call to Action.
Coordinated fiscal support
The G20 has played a key role in coordinating efforts for $10 trillion in collective fiscal support. The group was also instrumental in creating the action plan agreed upon by the finance ministers and central bank governors, and for the adoption of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative. These policies have ensured market liquidity and mitigated the economic impact caused by the health challenges and by inappropriate responses to the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, Brazil was on a recovery path towards economic growth and promoting structural reforms, such as reforming the national pension system. The crisis brought novel and urgent agendas. Political decisions were then oriented towards expanding capacity for assistance in health and supporting companies and workers, assuring employment and income in this difficult moment.
Our government launched a comprehensive programme to overcome the economic and social effects of COVID-19. The primary fiscal impact of this effort corresponds to 8.4% of Brazilian gross domestic product – 1.3% above the average of developed countries and 4.1% above the average of developing ones. If we add the credit provision through state-owned banks and support to federal states and municipalities, the amount rises to approximately 12.8% of our GDP. We intend to recover economic activity, give renewed impetus to our internal reforms and, thus, promote the sustained growth of the country.
As we move forwards in combatting the health and economic crises, we must also return to important points on the international cooperation agenda. The reform of the World Trade Organization, which was necessary before the pandemic, is now key for the recovery of the global economy.
Brazil has participated actively in the debates and supports the efforts of the Saudi G20 presidency to promote the reform of the WTO. The same impetus to liberalise trade in industrial goods must also be applied in proposals to reduce subsidies for agricultural goods. This is a topic of tremendous relevance for Brazil and for many other developing countries. WTO reform must also include investment facilitation and the creation of fair and balanced conditions for international trade, not only in goods but also in services.
Our government remains committed to the Paris Agreement. We do believe, however, that all member states must assume their responsibilities. The debates in the G20 must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, in light of each country’s national capabilities and circumstances.
Brazil remains set to cooperate with all other members of the G20 to overcome the current crises in such exceptional times. We hope that the Riyadh Summit will give renewed impetus to tackle the pandemic, recover the global economy and restore our societies towards prosperity.