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What We Learned From The 2020 G20 Riyadh Summit

The 2020 G20 Leaders’ Summit formally concluded on November 22, bringing into view a series of multilateral commitments and collective interventions aimed at breaking ground during the pandemic, and in its immediate aftermath – all for a world in need.

Leaders expressed their collective determination to strengthen COVID-19 vaccine distribution channels and production capacities, extend social protection guarantees to low-income countries, cement crucial debt-relief extensions, and communicate their “highest possible ambition” under the Paris Accord.

On the question of navigating the pandemic collectively, the G20 correctly indicates that the “unprecedented” financial and humanitarian costs can be best challenged through an even stronger focus on COVID-19 related health, economic, and social exigencies faced by developing countries at present.

More importantly, leaders render this diagnosis tangible by aligning their support with key collaborative efforts – notably the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) initiative and its COVAX facility – and zeroing in on swift, organized financial support for developing economies.

Nearly four dozen countries have already requested debt relief under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), equaling some $5.7 billion in critical debt service deferral for this year alone.

It is here that the G20’s latest decision to endorse “The Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI” extends relief timelines to mid-2021, consistent with the deteriorating economic outlooks of numerous low-income countries that may face challenges beyond a set timeline.

In a welcome move, finance officials from all 20 states will continue to monitor global economic behavior into the next year, and determine whether further extension of DSSI debt freeze merits consideration.

The logo of Group of Twenty (G20) being projected at a historic site in Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 20, 2020. /Xinhua

Therefore, the G20’s demonstrated desire to internationalize economic recovery prospects, instead of confining them within its own territorial bounds, signifies its commitment to equitable global recovery.

Interestingly, part of that growth also owes to the effective and timely distribution of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, as well as enduring partnerships that help prepare against future infectious and non-communicable diseases.

The G20’s embrace of its newly established Global Innovation Hub for Improving Value in Health is therefore a step in the right direction. The Hub serves as a dedicated platform for knowledge sharing that positions itself as a gateway for better Universal Health Coverage across countries.

It seeks to accomplish this goal by collecting evidence-informed expertise, and determine which health policies nations should fund, whether these health interventions reflect that country’s actual needs, and how financial risks to a given populace are best minimized.

Building on prior efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Hub could play a key role in mainstreaming pandemic preparedness expertise and form a valuable front against future outbreaks.

Given pronounced contrasts between developed and developing countries in terms of income equality, education access, and living standards, it is only logical for the post-pandemic growth vision to identify as truly sustainable and inclusive.

G20 leaders offered an array of policy insights to realizing this ambition, including the sustainable integration of less developed economies into the global trading system – a point of reflection ahead of the World Trade Organization (WTO) reforms.

As far as a result-yielding framework for post-pandemic growth goes, Chinese President Xi Jinping demonstrated all-important focus on implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG).

The agenda, significant to narrowing the “North-South gap,” does not necessarily limit headway on inclusive growth to the turn of the decade. China’s accelerated gains against absolute poverty – nearly a decade ahead of the 2030 Agenda schedule – is evidence that the conditions for achieving such sustainable growth can evolve with leadership imperatives, especially during the pandemic.

The G20 offered a clear conception of some of its own such imperatives, led by the 2020 Financial Inclusion Plan, which will serve as a catalyst for preexisting partnerships that help countries implement their financial inclusion SDGs for the next three years.

On climate, governments, civil societies, environmental activists, as well as broader coalitions for dedicated change may find plenty to seek comfort in. The G20 employed international cooperation as its lens to reiterate the disclosure of Member States’ “long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies” in 2020, and encouraged updates to countries’ highest possible “nationally determined contributions” under the Paris Accord.

By taking climate initiative into its own hands, the G20 dispels the notion that an external stimulus may be necessary to trigger progression on climate-aligned SDG commitments. Instead, the desire to commit to voluntary climate communication is a welcome departure from previous evidence that found G20’s climate commitments to be at relative odds with the emissions reductions goals set out under the Paris Accord.

A determined G20 alliance, therefore, can thrive on the back of clearly chalked-out priorities. Balancing resolve with instruments of delivery can end up accelerating the cause of a strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive post-COVID-19 era.

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China’s online retail is now quickly making up the losses suffered by the offline sector during the COVID-19 epidemic. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the online retail sales of physical goods went up by 11.5 percent in the first five months this year, accounting for 24.3 percent of the total retail sales of consumer goods. China also saw its express delivery volume surge 41 percent year-on-year in May, and the revenue of express delivery companies increased 25 percent year-on-year, said the country’s State Post Bureau. With emerging new businesses and vital online consumption, the online retail sales of physical goods is contributing an increasingly larger share to the growth of the consumption market, bringing more benefits and convenience to the consumers. At 4:00 a.m. every day in Yantai, East China’s Shandong Province, the machines at a logistics distribution center of Suning Logistics, a Chinese self-operated retail logistics company, crank up. Parcels are being sorted by employees and then loaded onto vehicles heading for 12 first-level branches, where the commodities will be sorted again and shipped to over 200 service centers in different townships. “There is a huge demand for online service. Our delivery volume expanded by about 23 percent on a yearly basis in May,” introduced Wang Baoyu, a principal of a Suning Logistics service center in the city. The growth in online retail sales of physical goods indicates strong momentum of China’s consumption upgrading. “Although we had to stay at home, we could still taste the delicacies in different parts of the country,” said Zhang Ju in Hefei, capital of East China’s Anhui Province. She placed an order online of Orah mandarins, a specialty of Wuming county of Nanning, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, after her relative-visiting trip to Guangxi was suspended by COVID-19. “The mandarins were delivered to me on the second day,” Zhang said, adding that the fruits were tasty and fairly priced. As consumption upgrading accelerates, consumers’ demands are becoming increasingly diversified and personalized. The consumption upgrading showed a strong momentum in the January-May period despite the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic, and commodities from across the world are now accessible on e-commerce platforms for the Chinese public. The growth in online retail sales of physical goods indicates flourishing new consumption. A livestreaming marketing event was recently held by Pinduoduo, an interactive e-commerce platform in China. It attracted a total of 7.23 million consumers in 48 hours, gaining over 630,000 new followers for enterprises on the platform. The event was joined by multiple government officials, including He Jinshan, head of Nankang district, Ganzhou of East China’s Jiangxi Province, who tried to sell furniture made of the solid-wood produced in the district. When the event concluded, Nankang’s furniture manufacturers achieved a turnover of over 50 million yuan ($7.08 million). China’s e-commerce live-streaming sessions topped 4 million in the first quarter, in which over 100 mayors and county chiefs promoted local products, according to statistics released by the country’s Ministry of Commerce. New online businesses accelerated their innovation in the epidemic, and new consumption, such as influencer marketing and community-based group buying, also demonstrated strong vitality. Driven by digital technology, new online consumption is able to better match the demand and supply sides, tap into the potential of regional industrial clusters, and facilitate the resumption of production of relevant enterprises. It also helps make up the declined consumption, unleash the consumption potential, boost economy and stabilize employment. The growth in online retail sales of physical goods indicates the vast space of China’s domestic market. Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com kicked off its annual shopping festival on June 1 and witnessed robust sales thanks to its high-quality service. Statistics showed that the total transactions on the company’s platform reached a staggering amount of 269.2 billion yuan from June 1 to 18, and 187 brands gained more than 100 million yuan on the platform during the same period. The orders of home appliances, groceries and daily necessities all increased. China is a country with 1.4 billion people, including 400 million middle-income earners. As one of the world’s largest markets, the country is bringing its consumption upgrading into full swing. At present, various policies to stimulate consumption are taking effect, and online and offline consumption is becoming more energetic, injecting more impetus to the high-quality development of China’s economy.

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