Zelensky, Putin Invited To G20 Summit – Indonesian Leader

A photo combination of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

 

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to the G20 summit in November, which will also be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president of host nation Indonesia said Friday.

“I have invited President Zelenskyy to attend the G20 summit,” said Joko Widodo, suggesting a compromise had been reached following Western pressure to bar Russia from the event in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Putin confirmed in a phone call with Widodo he will attend the summit, to take place on Bali island, the Indonesian leader said in a livestreamed address.

Russia is a G20 member, while Ukraine is not.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Indonesia has faced fierce pressure from Western countries, led by the United States, to bar Russia from the summit.

But Jakarta had insisted that, as the host, it must remain impartial, while US President Joe Biden had suggested Ukraine could take part.

Zelensky had announced in a tweet that he was invited to the summit by Indonesia on Wednesday, following a call with Widodo.

IMF Warns Of ‘Economic Collapse’ Unless G20 Extends Debt Relief

In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

The IMF on Thursday urged advanced economies in the G20 to extend and improve its debt relief initiative, warning that many countries face a dire crisis without the help.

“We may see economic collapse in some countries unless G20 creditors agree to accelerate debt restructurings and suspend debt service while the restructurings are being negotiated,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said in a blog, adding that it is critical private creditors also offer relief.

The G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) expires at the end of the year, and without a renewal, countries could faced financial pressure and spending cuts just as new Covid-19 variants are spreading and interest rates are expected to rise, she said.

“Debt challenges are pressing and the need for action is urgent. The recent Omicron variant is a stark reminder that the pandemic will be with us for a while,” Georgieva said in the blog co-authored by Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, director of the fund’s Strategy, Policy, and Review Department.

Given the problems with the debt relief program and the common framework for dealing with private creditors, only three countries so far have applied for relief — Chad, Ethiopia and Zambia — and they have faced “significant delays.”

The framework has “yet to deliver on its promise. This requires prompt action,” she said.

G20 Agrees On 1.5 Degree Climate Change Target

(From L) US President Joe Biden, DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi and other world leaders. (Photo by Erin SCHAFF / POOL / AFP)

 

G20 leaders meeting in Rome on Sunday committed to the key goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and pledged action on the use of coal, but fell short on a target of zero emissions, according to a final draft communique.

The pledges by the Group of 20 major economies, who emit nearly 80 percent of carbon emissions, are viewed as crucial to the success of make-or-break UN climate talks taking place in Glasgow over the next fortnight.

 

(From L) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden pose within a meeting about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit on October 30, 2021, in Rome. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

 

According to a draft communique obtained by AFP, which several sources said was the final version due to be published later Sunday, the leaders agreed to keep in play key commitments agreed at the landmark 2015 Paris accords.

“Keeping 1.5 degrees within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches,” it says.

 

This handout photograph taken and released on October 31, 2021, by the Turkish Presidential Press Service shows Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L back), Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu (L), US President Joe Biden (R back) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) attending a meeting during the G20 Summit at the Roma Convention Center La Nuvola. (Photo by Murat CETIN MUHURDAR / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP)

 

Diplomats said the language used was tougher than in the Paris deal, but activist groups slammed the final statement as “weak” and half-hearted.

According to the statement, leaders of countries including the US, China, India, Russia, plus the EU, call for clear national plans that “align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals, and with international cooperation and support”.

READ ALSO: World Leaders To Talk Climate, Economy, Vaccines At G20

But experts say meeting the 1.5 degree target means slashing global emissions nearly in half by 2030 and to “net-zero” by 2050 — and there is no firm date in the G20 communique, which speaks only of reaching the goal of net zero “by or around mid century”.

 

Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales arrives to attend the G20 Summit at the La Nuvola conference centre in Rome on October 31, 2021. (Photo by Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP)

 

The leaders did agree to end funding for new unabated coal plants abroad — those whose emissions have not gone through any filtering process — by the end of 2021.

– Lacking ambition –

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace slammed the final statement as “weak, lacking both ambition and vision”, saying G20 leaders “failed to meet the moment”.

“If the G20 was a dress rehearsal for COP26, then world leaders fluffed their lines,” said Executive Director Jennifer Morgan.

 

(From L) Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit the Trevi fountain in central Rome on October 31, 2021, on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

 

Friederike Roder, senior director at anti-poverty group Global Citizen, told AFP the summit had produced “half-measures rather than concrete actions”.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron had earlier said it was too early to write off the success of the Glasgow talks.

Nearly 200 nations are gathering in the Scottish city, with many of the leaders in Rome — including US President Joe Biden — heading straight there.

The Rome summit had to “do its utmost” to ensure the success of Glasgow, but “nothing is ever written before a COP”, Macron told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron hosts a meeting with leaders of the African Union and European Union at the Palazzo Farnese, in Rome on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit, on October 30, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

 

“Let’s not forget that in Paris, in 2015, nothing was decided in advance,” he said.

China — by far the world’s biggest carbon polluter — plans to make its economy carbon neutral before 2060, but has resisted pressure to offer nearer-term goals.

India, meanwhile, argues that if net-zero by 2050 is the global goal, then rich countries should be carbon neutral ten years earlier to allow poorer, emerging nations a larger carbon allowance and more time to develop.

– ‘Dream big’ –

Earlier Sunday, summit host Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister, Prince Charles and Pope Francis had all called on G20 leaders — and by extension, the wider group of world leaders meeting in Glasgow — to think big.

Draghi called climate change “the defining challenge of our times”, saying: “Either we act now… or we delay acting, pay a much higher price later, and risk failing.”

 

(From 2ndL) Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, International Monetary Fund (FMI) Managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, Director General, World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Director-General, Food, and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Qu Dongyu, President of the European Council Charles Michel, and Japan’s senior deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, Hiroshi Suzuki throw a coin in the water during a visit to the Trevi fountain in central Rome on October 31, 2021, on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

 

Prince Charles, a committed environmentalist and summit guest, had also reminded leaders of their “overwhelming responsibility” to keep climate change in check.

“It is impossible not to hear the despairing voices of young people who see you, ladies and gentlemen, as the stewards of the planet, holding the viability of their future in your hands,” the heir to the British throne told the G20.

Pope Francis later tweeted: “This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities… The time to act, and to act together, is now!”

President Xi Jinping of China was absent from the meeting, as was Russia’s Vladimir Putin, although they were participating via videolink.

World Leaders To Talk Climate, Economy, Vaccines At G20

World leaders gather for the official family photograph on day one of the G20 Summit at the convention center of La Nuvola, in the EUR district of Rome on October 30, 2021. PHOTO: LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP

 

Climate change and the relaunch of the global economy will top the G20 agenda as leaders of the world’s most advanced nations meet Saturday, the first in-person gathering since the pandemic.

Looming over the two-day talks in Rome is pressure to make headway on tackling global warming, ahead of the key COP26 summit kicking off in Glasgow Monday.

The stakes are high, with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warning G20 leaders Friday to show “more ambition and more action” and overcome mistrust in order to advance climate goals.

READ ALSO: Trials For COVID-19 Vaccine Pill To Begin In South Africa

“We are still on time to put things on track, and I think the G20 meeting is the opportunity to do that,” Guterres said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi met leaders as they arrived in the futuristic convention centre known as the “Nuvola” (cloud) in EUR, a southern Rome district built by Benito Mussolini to glorify his fascist regime.

US President Joe Biden flew in on Friday, hoping to turn a page from the tumultuous Trump years and show that American leadership on the world stage is restored.

Yet the Democrat faces a credibility test as his own signature climate policy — part of a sweeping economic package — is held up amid infighting within his party in Congress.

He met Friday with Pope Francis and then French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, where he admitted Washington had been “clumsy” in handling of a submarine deal with Australia and Britain that left Paris out in the cold.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping are absent from Rome, attending only by video link, but the others are taking advantage of the first in-person G20 for more than two years to hold a flurry of bilaterals.

Biden will meet Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s Boris Johnson later Saturday for talks on Iran, after Tehran said it would resume discussions with world powers next month on reviving the 2015 nuclear accord.

Security is tight in Rome following violent protests earlier this month over the extension of Italy’s coronavirus pass to workplaces, and a Fridays for Future climate march is expected in the city later in the day.

Draghi has called for a “G20 commitment on the need to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees” above pre-industrial levels, the most ambitious target outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Johnson — the host of the UN climate summit next week — said neither the G20 nor the COP26 meetings could stop global warming, and “the most we can hope to do is slow the increase”.

Humanity, Johnson told reporters onboard his flight to Rome, can regress “at extraordinary speed”.

“You saw that with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and I’m afraid to say that it’s true today unless we get this right in tackling climate change,” he said.

Complicating the task for the G20 will be disparities between top world powers.

China, the world’s biggest polluter and responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon emissions, has been accused of sidestepping calls to stop building new coal-fired power plants.

A new plan submitted by Beijing to the UN ahead of COP26 fell short of environmentalists’ expectations, with a target date of 2060 to reach carbon neutrality.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has steadfastly demanded that his country be paid for protecting its share of the Amazon.

The world’s biggest rainforest is seen as a vital resource to combat climate change for its ability to absorb fossil fuel emissions.

 – Taxing global players –

A surer bet for concrete progress at the G20 involves taxation, as the group is expected to endorse the 15 percent minimum international tax rate on multinational companies after nearly 140 countries reached an OECD-brokered deal.

The move seeks to end tax optimisation, in which global corporations — including big US tech firms such as Apple and Google parent Alphabet — shelter profits in countries with low-tax systems.

The OECD says a 15 percent global minimum corporate tax rate could add $150 billion annually to global tax revenues.

No new pledges are expected on Covid-19 vaccines at the summit.

G20 finance and health ministers meeting Friday said members would “take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints.”

AFP

Biden To Meet Pope Francis Ahead Of G20 Summit

A photo combination of President Biden and Pope Francis.

 

As world leaders flock to Rome for the G20 summit, President Joe Biden kicks off a trip aimed at reasserting US international credentials, starting at a meeting Friday with Catholic ally Pope Francis.

The president left Washington with a spring in his step after unveiling a “historic” framework for a vast social spending plan — although it remains to be seen if it can win the support of lawmakers.

After weeks of internal party feuding, and with his personal ratings slumping, Biden wants to use the twin summits in Europe this week — the G20 and UN climate talks in Glasgow — to prove his political clout.

He sees himself as the spokesman for democracy in the face of authoritarian regimes, notably China.

But he opens the trip on a more intimate note, having landed early Friday in Rome, he will head first to the Vatican, for what is expected to be a largely good-humoured sit-down with Pope Francis.

Only the second ever Catholic president, Biden is open about his faith and almost never misses Sunday mass.

He has met the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics three times already, but this will be their first since the 78-year old was elected president.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday the White House expects the talks to be “warm”.

Biden has spoken of the strength he drew from his faith faced with a series of bereavements — after his first wife and their daughter were killed in a car accident, and his son Beau later died of cancer.

He and the pope share a range of concerns, from poverty to climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

But there is potential for a falling out should either leader raise the red-button issue of abortion.

Biden supports the right to choose, while Francis, 84, has slammed terminating pregnancies as “murder”.

The pontiff has nonetheless distanced himself from a push by conservative US bishops to deny communion to politicians supportive of abortion rights — which would include Biden.

READ ALSO: Biden Announces $1.75 Trillion US Spending Deal Ahead Of Europe Trip

 Charm offensive 

US President Joe Biden (2nd L) and US First Lady Jill Biden (C) arrive at Rome Fiumicino International Airport, early on October 29, 2021, in Rome, Italy.  Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

After Francis, Biden crosses the Tiber into the heart of the Eternal City to meet Prime Minister Mario Draghi — the man, dubbed “Super Mario”, tasked with reforming Italy after the devastation of Covid-19.

The G20 host, a former head of the European Central Bank famous for his efforts to save the euro from collapse, is being closely watched in Washington for his plans to set debt-laden and politically fractious Italy back on track.

But while Draghi is the new star of European politics, Biden seems to have lost some of his shine.

The president, who appears confident his $1.75 trillion social spending plan is in the bag, hopes to use the G20 and the COP26 climate summit to show the world “America is back”.

He will doubtless boast about the package including “the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis ever” — 550 billion dollars to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The veteran foreign policy expert is determined to distance himself from the unilateralism of ex-president Donald Trump, and will be seeking to soothe ruffled feathers.

He will also have some fence-mending to do after a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which irritated US allies, and a major spat over nuclear-powered submarines.

He may need to reserve his biggest charm offensive for French President Emmanuel Macron, who is he due to meet on Friday for the first time since the subs row.

Paris was furious after Australia ditched a major deal to buy French submarines last month, saying it was negotiating a new defence pact with the US and Britain.

AFP

G20 Leaders To Discuss Afghanistan In Virtual Summit

File Photo: A handout picture provided by the G20 Media on April 19, 2020, shows the G20 Health Ministers holding a virtual meeting on COVID-19. AFP PHOTO/ HANDOUT/G20 MEDIA.

 

G20 leaders will hold a virtual summit on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan, with the Italy-hosted talks focused on the humanitarian and security situation following the takeover by the Taliban.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, whose country holds the rotating G20 presidency, has been pushing to widen the global discussion on Afghanistan to countries including Russia and China.

It was not clear if all the leaders of the G20 economic powers, which include the United States, EU, China, Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia among others, would join Tuesday’s meeting.

But an Italian government official said it would be “mostly heads of state and government”.

The summit will be held behind closed doors but Draghi will hold a press conference afterwards.

The hardline Islamist Taliban returned to power in August following the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years of war.

Afghanistan’s economy remains in a parlous state with international aid cut off, food prices rising and unemployment spiking.

Announcing the meeting last month, the Italian premier said it would address what he said was the risk of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan.

Draghi, whose country was part of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, said leaders would also look at measures the international community can take “to stop Afghanistan from again becoming a hotbed of international terrorism”.

The Taliban regime, still yet to be recognised as a legitimate government by any other country, is itself facing a threat from the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), who have launched a series of deadly attacks.

AFP

IMF Chief Urges G20 To Prevent ‘Devastating’ Blow To Poorest

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 17, 2020, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva speaks in Washington, DC. JIM WATSON / AFP

 

The world’s richest nations must do more to help the poorest countries withstand the “devastating double-blow” of the pandemic and the resulting economic damage, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said Wednesday.

Warning of a “deepening divergence” between rich and poor, she called on the G20 to take urgent steps to keep developing nations from falling further behind in vaccine access and funding to repair their fortunes.

In a blog post ahead of this week’s meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers, the head of the International Monetary Fund said “speed is of the essence” but the price tag is relatively small.

“Poorer nations are facing a devastating double-blow” losing the race against the virus and missing out on key investments that will help lay the groundwork for economic growth, Georgieva said.

“It is a critical moment that calls for urgent action by the G20 and policymakers across the globe,” she said.

While the United States is poised to grow by its fastest pace since 1984 and countries like China and the euro area are gaining momentum, the developing world is being left behind by a “worsening two-track recovery, driven by dramatic differences in vaccine availability, infection rates, and the ability to provide policy support.”

She again pressed the G20 to do more to help get vaccines to the poor countries, including sharing doses, accelerating debt forgiveness, and endorsing the goal of vaccinating at least 40 percent of the population in every country by the end of 2021, and at least 60 percent by the first half of 2022.

With less than one adult in 100 fully vaccinated in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 30 percent in advanced economies, those countries are at higher risk for emerging Covid-19 variants.

The IMF estimated that low-income countries will need to deploy about $200 billion over five years just to fight the pandemic, and another $250 billion for economic reforms to allow them to catch up to the richer nations.

But Georgieva said they cannot do that on their own and wealthy nations must “redouble their efforts, especially on concessional financing and dealing with debt.”

The Washington-based crisis lender has proposed a $50 billion joint effort with the World Health Organization, World Bank and World Trade Organization to expand vaccine access, “a global game-changer” she said would save hundreds of thousands of lives and accelerate the recovery.

In areas where infections continue to rise, she said it is “critical” that businesses and families continue to receive financial support, but once the virus is under control funds can shift to things like worker training programs to “help heal the scars of the crisis,” which hit women especially hard.

Georgieva also said the IMF is keeping an eye on rising prices, particularly in the United States, but as the recovery gains traction “it will be essential to avoid overreacting to transitory increases in inflation.”

AFP

G20 Talks Urge Greater Global Cooperation Post-Covid

A handout picture provided by the G20 Media on April 19, 2020 shows the G20 Health Ministers holding a virtual meeting on COVID-19. AFP PHOTO/ HANDOUT/G20 MEDIA.

 

G20 ministers led by the United States said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic showed the need for greater global cooperation, as African nations sought help to develop their medical infrastructure.

In a sharp reversal from the previous US administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasised the need for multilateral institutions as foreign ministers from the Group of 20 major economies met in the ancient Italian city of Matera.

“Multilateral cooperation will be key to our collective ability to stop this global health crisis,” said Blinken, winding down a week-long trip to Europe.

“That’s also true for the work we must do to strengthen global health security moving forward so we can detect, prevent and respond better to future health emergencies.”

Blinken pointed to US contributions to COVAX, the UN-backed initiative that aims to vaccinate low-income countries, including President Joe Biden’s promise to provide 500 million Pfizer doses.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, the host of the talks, said that the pandemic, which has hit his country particularly hard, exposed global vulnerabilities.

“Multi-lateralism and cooperation are fundamental in responding to global challenges,” he said.

Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula of the Democratic Republic of Congo, participating as part of an Italian push to involve African nations in G20 talks, warned that coronavirus was far from over in his continent and called for urgent measures.

In addition to immediate aid, he called for the G20 to back the capacity of developing countries to produce vaccines themselves and to help launch a continent-wide agency that will encourage scientific cooperation.

The G20 must help “concretely and in detail so we move beyond speeches to urgent action on the ground,” he said.

Such cooperation “will help African countries counter the shock of Covid and revive their economies for the greater good of the international community”, he said.

The talks will prepare for a G20 leaders’ meeting in October in Rome that is expected to see the first summit between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping amid soaring tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

With China participating virtually in Matera, Tuesday’s conference was focused more on general themes but marked a major US shift following the defeat of former president Donald Trump, who belittled international institutions as part of his “America First” philosophy.

AFP

G20 Summit To Be Held Virtually – Saudi Hosts

A handout picture provided by the G20 Media on April 19, 2020 shows the G20 Health Ministers holding a virtual meeting on COVID-19. AFP PHOTO/ HANDOUT/G20 MEDIA.

 

Saudi Arabia said Monday it will hold the G20 summit virtually in November, instead of having leaders of the world’s richest nations converge on Riyadh as planned before the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has forced all of the group’s meetings to be held by videoconference since March.

In that month, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman chaired an emergency virtual summit of leaders to discuss a global response to the crisis which has ravaged global economies.

“The 2020 G20 Leaders’ Summit will be held virtually on November 21-22 and will be chaired by His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” the kingdom said in a statement.

“The upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth, by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down the foundations for a better future.”

Saudi Arabia had been attempting to repair its frayed global image ahead of its hosting of the summit.

The conservative kingdom, under fire over human rights abuses, has accelerated investment in glitzy sports and entertainment events in a bid to soften its profile and boost jobs and investment.

However, human rights groups have urged G20 member states to exert pressure on the kingdom over its intensifying crackdown on dissent, which has seen women activists, journalists and political dissidents jailed.

New York city’s mayor Bill de Blasio recently pulled out of a Saudi-hosted Urban 20 mayors’ conference, amid calls for a boycott of the event that coincides with the anniversary of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

Khashoggi’s 2018 killing, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, battered the reputation of the kingdom and of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who controls all major levers of power.

AFP

Coronavirus Exposes Weaknesses In Health Systems, Says G20

A handout picture provided by the G20 Media on April 19, 2020 shows the G20 Health Ministers holding a virtual meeting on COVID-19. AFP PHOTO/ HANDOUT/G20 MEDIA.

 

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed “systemic weaknesses” in global health systems, the G20 said Monday, but there was no mention of Washington’s contentious decision to halt World Health Organization funding.

The statement came after health ministers from the 20 most advanced economies held a virtual meeting on Sunday hosted by the group’s current president Saudi Arabia following criticism the institution was slow to address the pandemic.

“Health Ministers recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted systemic weaknesses in health systems,” they said in a joint statement.

“It also has shown vulnerabilities in the global community’s ability to prevent and respond to pandemic threats.

“Ministers addressed the need to improve the effectiveness of global health systems by sharing knowledge and closing the gap in response capabilities and readiness.”

The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rose to 164,016 on Sunday, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

More than 2,363,210 declared cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Ghana Lifts Lockdown On Key Regions

The novel coronavirus has upended the lives of billions of people as nations imposed lockdown measures to curb its spread, sending the global economy into a tailspin.

The G20 statement was silent on US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to cut off Washington’s bilateral funding to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Trump has accused the UN body of mishandling the coronavirus crisis.

The US contributed $400 million to the WHO last year.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has condemned the US suspension of funds, saying it was “not the time to reduce” the WHO’s resources.

The WHO remained “absolutely critical” in the global fight against the virus, he said.

AFP

G20 Energy Ministers Scramble To Finalise Oil Output Deal

 

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 20, 2019 shows employees of Aramco oil company working in Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant. Saudi Aramco shares hit the lowest level since their market debut today, as Gulf bourses were hit by a panicky sell-off amid Iranian vows of retaliation over the US killing of a top general. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

 

G20 energy ministers held virtual talks Friday as major oil producers scrambled to finalise output cuts to shore up prices, with Mexico announcing a deal with the United States that could end an impasse.

Mexico was the lone holdout in an OPEC-led agreement reached after marathon overnight talks that would see output slashed by 10 million barrels per day in May and June.

The standoff had cast doubt on efforts to bolster oil prices, pushed to near two-decade lows by the demand-sapping coronavirus pandemic and a Saudi-Russia price war.

The G20 talks, hosted by top exporter Saudi Arabia, are expected to seal the deal more widely with non-OPEC countries in the group including Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Under the OPEC deal, Mexico was expected to cut production by 400,000 barrels per day but the country resisted during the overnight talks and demanded the reduction be limited to 100,000.

Speaking to reporters later Friday, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had reached an agreement with his US counterpart Donald Trump to cut production by 100,000 bpd.

He added that Trump had agreed to cut US production by 250,000 bpd “as compensation” for Mexico.

There was no immediate comment from Trump, and it was unclear whether the OPEC oil cartel and its allies would agree to the Mexico-US deal.

The production cut agreement hinges on Mexico’s consent for it to take effect, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said early Friday after an hours-long meeting.

Riyadh, which currently holds the G20’s rotating presidency, has said the G20 talks were aimed at ensuring “market stability”.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak urged the G20 ministers to act in a spirit of “partnership and solidarity”, according to a local television station.

“I hope that (the meeting) will help restore some much-needed stability to oil markets,” said Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“The extreme volatility we are seeing in oil markets is detrimental to the global economy at a time when we can least afford it.”

– ‘Storm clouds’ –
The deal marked a possible end of the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which Bloomberg News said had agreed to slash output to around 8.5 million bpd.

The impact of the cuts on prices was not immediately clear as the global oil markets were shut on Friday for the Easter weekend.

But Stephen Innes, an analyst at AxiCorp, said the supply cuts were “less than the market hoped for” given the hit to demand from coronavirus lockdowns throughout the world.

“The deal currently tabled will only partially offset oil price distress, but that’s what it was supposed to do. Still, the storm clouds for oil prices will only completely dissipate when lockdowns are lifted,” he said.

Rystad Energy also said the cuts were not enough to restore market equilibrium.

“The proposed 10 million bpd cut by OPEC+ for May and June will keep the world from physically testing the limits of storage capacity and save prices from falling into a deep abyss, but it will still not restore the desired market balance,” the energy research firm said.

– ‘Hemorrhaging’ industry –
Oil prices have slumped since the beginning of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our industry is hemorrhaging; no-one has been able to stem the bleeding,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said ahead of the OPEC-led meeting, bemoaning companies already filing for bankruptcy and the tens of thousands of jobs that have been lost.

Compounding the problem, Riyadh and Moscow had both ramped up output in a bid to hold on to market share and undercut US shale producers.

While the US is not in the OPEC or OPEC+ groups, it is supportive of a reduction in supply in order to stabilise prices and breathe new life into its shale industry.

Trump had expressed optimism about the prospects for an agreement — even as the talks appeared to be at an impasse.

Fresh from a conference call with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump told a press briefing at the White House Thursday that a deal was “close”.

Shale has transformed the US into the world’s top producer, but the industry cannot sustain its high cost base as prices collapse.

Yet the US oil sector appears reluctant to trim production, having extracted a near-record 13 mbpd in the final week of March. This fell to 12.4 mbpd last week.

At the same time, the global supply glut — already weighing on oil markets before the coronavirus crisis — has stretched oil storage capacity to its limits, forcing many producers to scale back output.

Worsening Trade Wars Pose Risk To World Economy, Says G20

Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso (C) poses next to IMF managing director Christine Lagarde (centre L) and Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda (centre R) during a family photo of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Fukuoka on June 8, 2019. FRANCK ROBICHON / POOL / AFP

 

The world’s top financial policymakers admitted Sunday that “intensifying” trade tensions pose a risk for the global economy, after a G20 meeting that laid bare differences between the United States and other nations.

Following 30 hours of wrangling in what one official described as a “tense” atmosphere, the G20 finance minister and central bank chiefs produced a final statement acknowledging that “growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside”.

“Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified,” the G20 said in a statement seen by AFP, adding they “stood ready to take further action” if required.

As a compromise pushed by Washington, the statement omitted language from a previous draft that mentioned a “pressing need to resolve trade tensions”.

The statement capped two days of talks in the western Japanese city of Fukuoka that also tackled the thorny issue of taxing internet giants and, for the first time, the economic challenges posed by ageing.

But trade battles were front and centre of policymakers’ minds as the US and China continue to threaten each other with tariffs that economists fear could slam the brakes on global growth.

The IMF has said US-China tariffs could shave global GDP by 0.5 percent in 2020 or about US$455 billion, stressing the need to resolve the differences to avoid plunging the world economy into another crisis.

The G20 ministers heaved a sigh of relief just hours before the meeting when the US and Mexico clinched a deal over immigration that stopped Washington imposing five percent tariffs on Mexican goods.

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But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that Washington stood ready to impose more tariffs on China if President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping fail to strike a deal at the G20 summit later this month in Osaka.

“If China wants to come back to the table and negotiate on the basis that we were negotiating, we can get a great historic deal. If they don’t, we’ll proceed with our tariffs,” Mnuchin told reporters on Saturday.

Taking a different line from the other policymakers, Mnuchin said the slowdown in some parts of the world was not due to trade difficulties and even said the friction could benefit some countries if companies relocated from China to avoid tariffs.

“There will be winners and losers,” said the treasury secretary.

– ‘I don’t like them’ –
The quandary of reforming the global tax system to take into account the rise of internet giants such as Google and Facebook was another issue exercising the minds of policymakers in the coastal city.

In the final statement, the G20 agreed to “redouble our efforts for a consensus-based solution with a final report by 2020”.

However, here again, the Fukuoka meeting exposed a difference of opinion over what form this reform should take.

Frustrated by a lack of global action on the issue, some countries such as Britain and France have already introduced a so-called digital tax, but Mnuchin was blunt in his assessment of these policies.

“I would say the US has significant concerns with the two current taxes that are being proposed by France and the UK but let me give them some good credit for proposing them in the sense (that) they have created an urgency to deal with this issue,” Mnuchin said at a public meeting before the formal G20 started.

“Although I don’t like them, I do appreciate the impetus for these issues,” added the top US finance official.

Appropriately for a meeting held in Japan — which is on track to become the world’s first “super-aged” society in which more than 28 percent of the population is over 65 — the G20 ministers discussed for the first time the “challenges and opportunities” posed by ageing.

They suggested getting more women and elderly people into the workforce and “promoting elderly-friendly industries”, as well as reforming the fiscal and banking systems to take into account ageing populations.

“You basically have a very large portion of mankind that is ageing and then the workforce is shrinking,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria told AFP in an interview.

Solving the issue will require wholesale changes to the way society is organised, added Gurria.

AFP