G-20 to commit to fair access to COVID-19 vaccine

Nov 22 , 2020. 5 hours ago – 15:18 KYODO NEWS

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a virtual Group of 20 summit conference from his office in Tokyo on Nov. 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office)(Kyodo)

TOKYO – Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies are expected to pledge Sunday to do their best to ensure all nations have fair access to COVID-19 vaccines that are under development, officials said.

In wrapping up their two-day videoconference, the G-20 leaders are also likely to vow in a joint statement that they will make every effort to cushion the global economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and safeguard people’s lives and jobs, according to conference sources.

On the first day of their virtual summit, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga emphasized the importance of guaranteeing universal access by supplying treatment drugs and vaccines against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, through a system of global patent management, according to a Japanese official.

The envisaged international framework to manage patents “would contribute to a large supply of COVID-19 drugs at an affordable cost for all countries, and it’s vital for the G-20 to support,” Suga was quoted by the official as saying.

On Sunday, Suga will also speak about greenhouse gas emissions and marine plastic pollution, both of which Japan aims to reduce to net zero by 2050, as well as his country’s push for female empowerment, according to the official.

The G-20 nations will endorse a plan, already agreed by their finance ministers and central bank governors, saying their debt repayment suspension program for poor countries will be extended by six months to June 2021, and possibly through the end of 2021, the source said, adding that debt reductions may also be on the table.

The debt relief program, called the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, was launched in May by the G-20 and Paris Club of traditional creditor nations after the outbreak of the virus saw vulnerable countries saddled with higher financing costs.

While the G-20 statement is likely to show strong support for multilateral trading systems, it is expected to refrain from vowing to fight protectionism, sources involved in preparations for the summit said earlier this month.

The G-20 countries have done so at their summits since 2018 after opposition from the United States, which implemented protectionist trade measures under outgoing President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy.

Trump discussed with other leaders the need to work together to restore “strong” economic growth and jobs hit by the pandemic, the White House said in a statement.

Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies begin a teleconference on Nov. 21, 2020. (Kyodo)  

During the meeting, Trump reaffirmed the “importance of the G-20 working together for future economic growth and prosperity,” according to the White House.

The second virtual G-20 summit under Saudi Arabia’s presidency, following the first in March, came as many European countries and others have been seeing spikes in virus cases as winter approaches, increasing downside risks to growth recovery and uncertainty over the coming months.

The pandemic has led to strict travel restrictions and hard lockdowns in many cities across the world, forcing most major economies to contract an annualized real 20 to 50 percent in the April-June period from the previous quarter. They sharply recovered in the July-September period but were still below pre-pandemic levels.

The G-20 groups Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.