G20 leaders during the Virtual Leaders Summit 2020. Photo from www.commondreams.org

G20 Virtual Leaders Summit: A hope amidst the crisis of global cooperation in fighting the coronavirus

Today is an unprecedented reality where more than 190 countries in the world affected by the new coronavirus also officially known as COVID-19. The time when this article is written, approximately 590.000 people are positively diagnosed from the entire globe infected by this virus. The coronavirus outbreak is not only disrupting the global economy, supply chains, international mobilization until how people’s work and life, but also laying down a big question on the lack of global cooperation in fighting this coronavirus.

From the early stage of the coronavirus epidemic outbreak in China and then spread into neighboring countries namely Japan and South Korea, countries around the world started to push travel restrictions or even travel ban measures to those affected countries. More were closing borders, stop the export-import activities, cancel all of the governmental occasions due to the urgency of enacting swift action to protect their citizens from the invisible coronavirus. As more countries affected by the virus, we saw more of similar actions made afterward by their respective governments. Many experts then argued that coronavirus has reinforced nationalism and weakened the globalization.

That might be fully right or even wrong, depends on how do we place the context of our observation and analysis. I agreed on the differences of countries’ capacities in anticipating the spread of the coronavirus — specifically on the health care system. These differences then conclude the ways the government reacted to the virus, Indonesia two months ago for example considered to be over-reacting by stopping the flight to and from China but meanwhile the Ministry of Health underestimated the problem, that was for sure to avoid public fear and panic. This is different from what happened in South Korea where its government took anticipated measures by doing rapid tests and urged its people to do self-insolation before it was even reached the peak.

A few weeks later, we see the measures taken by the Italian and Malaysian government by locking down the whole nation for a few weeks. We also see different approaches in Singapore, Australia, and Indonesia who are trying to do other alternatives of solutions besides locking down policies. The US, in this case, showed themselves to not taking the global leader in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

Otherwise, when President Trump used the term “Chinese Virus” and followed by Secretary Pompeo’s tweet on March 22nd, blaming the disinformation made by countries like China, Russia and Iran has made the global cooperation in curbing the spread of coronavirus become an unreachable reality to see.

Hence, we finally see hope amidst the global health cooperation crisis. Under the leadership of Saudi Arabia on G20 this year, this group of the biggest economy in the world made a significant step by having an Extraordinary Virtual Leaders Summit 2020 on March 26th. This is a hope after the G7 nations failed to agree on a joint statement about coronavirus.

The summit was also attended by relevant global institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group (WBG) and the United Nations (UN). This summit then resulted in a statement in which they agreed to call for a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity.

There are several sectors of commitment that the G20 countries have agreed, such as providing help to all countries in need of assistance, coordinating the public health and financial measures and minimizing disruptions to global trade and supply chains. In fighting the pandemics, the G20 countries committed to strengthen health systems globally and develop a set of urgent actions on jointly combatting the pandemic in coordination with the WHO.

Meanwhile, to safeguard the global economy, they agreed to inject about $5 trillion USD into the global economy as the effort to guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic, specifically targeted the most vulnerable part within the society,

In terms of addressing the international trade disruptions, they reiterated the goal to realize the free, fair and stable trade and investment environment and to keep their markets open. I personally argue that this is the most difficult sector in which the coronavirus has clearly disrupted not only the global economy but also the economic relationship between countries bilaterally. Many foreign policy experts and economists have debated on what would the coronavirus give at the end of the global economic directions.

The fact today is as the Chinese economy dropped and disrupted the global supply chain, the global economy has been threatened dramatically. Many foreign corporations and businesses have been reconsidering their operations in China or doing any trade with China, as a result of avoiding a strong dependence on the Chinese economy and doubting the safety of doing business with China. Yes, that is just one real example. Although, i believe China will take care on this soon after the pandemic ended.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea at the G20 Virtual Leaders Summit 2020. Photo from www.taiwannews.com.tw

From the Virtual Leaders Summit, we can also see the South Korean addressed the successful measures taken by his government in which has adhered to the three principles of openness, transparency, and democracy in the response to the pandemic. The commitment of President Xi Jinping of China in offering technical assistance and knowledge in handling the spread of coronavirus to other G20 member countries has also shown the positive gestures towards the global cooperation. At least, it has given optimism on the solidarity from a country that used to be the most affected nation.

Press conference by President Trump after the G20 Virtual Leaders Summit on March 26th. Photo from www.usatoday.com

US President, Donald Trump in his last press conference also pointed out that the G20 summit was a terrific meeting and the US is ready to cooperate and share all necessary data and practices in fighting against the coronavirus. From those leaders, we can initially judge the positive aftermath implications of that G20 leaders summit, i mean, better than nothing!

The biggest question of all is “was that G20 Virtual Leaders Summit enough?”. My preliminary answer is No. This is different with the global financial crisis in 2008 where the major economies in the world like China, EU, some Asian countries were still able to dealt with the economic impact made by the crisis. This time, the coronavirus outbreak has infected the top over the top largest economy in the world, namely the US, China, Germany, and South Korea. The rest of the world will be significantly depend on the future policies of these 20 countries to repair the severely damaged global economy.

There are more questions actually on the way of regional organizations play a significant role in helping the country members to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. EU and ASEAN, in this case, has made a debate whether those regional organization has appeared other setbacks for a regional cooperation this time. But, let’s first highlight a hope that we see from the G20 summit, and keep observing the future development of this global cooperation. As stated in the joint statement — global action, solidarity, and international cooperation are more than ever necessary to address this pandemic!

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