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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

22 September 2022


Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to speak at this G20 Trade, Investment and Industry Ministerial Meeting. We congratulate and thank Indonesia for its leadership and hospitality in hosting this meeting, and are pleased to support Indonesia’s G20 Presidency on priority issues 3 and 4.

COVID-19 has certainly had a huge impact on the region. We have witnessed disruptions in global trade and supply chains. Even though the pandemic is showing signs of abating, the region’s economies have been left fragile, faced with uneven prospects for recovery and continued challenges that have been further aggravated by new crises.

In developing countries, the pandemic severely hurt domestic demand and segments such as tourism. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were hard-hit during the crisis. Furthermore, with increased inequalities in areas like health and education, numerous lost jobs and business closures, the challenges of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals have become even greater.

Most pertinently, the pandemic revealed the shortcomings of the global health architecture in addressing emerging disease threats equitably. Even today, less than one in five people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while in high-income countries, almost three in four people are fully vaccinated.

Such figures reflect the underlying disparities and deficiencies across the value chain: from research and development, regulatory cooperation and production to trade, procurement and health sector delivery. Capacities in these areas are severely unequal across regions and countries, and addressing this challenge is a critical matter as we recover from COVID-19.

Undoubtedly, collective action will be essential for the path ahead:

  1. We need to keep supply chains open and facilitate the flow of vaccines and other health products, as well as inputs for their manufacture.
  2. Greater collaboration will be required in scaling up and diversifying investment and production capacity across countries.
  3. Cooperation will also be needed to provide technical assistance and capacity building to underpin national, regional and global initiatives.
  4. Through all these efforts, support of the multilateral trading system will be crucial, including in relation to the WTO Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement and the coordinated use of TRIPS flexibilities in ensuring access to necessary health technologies and products.

Indeed, greater coordination is vital if the road leading out of COVID-19 and in preparation for the next pandemic is to be more equitable. In this respect, regional approaches could serve as important building blocks in strengthening pandemic preparedness at all levels.

Regional cooperation can play an essential role in bringing together knowledge networks and promoting technology transfer, securing more harmonized regulatory frameworks, and facilitating strategic pooled procurement and financing mechanisms for developing countries.

In coordinating and directing regional resources to various stages in the value chain, such approaches hold the potential to localize R&D and production and, ultimately, to better enable timely and affordable access to essential health products across countries.

The pandemic also underscored the importance of digital technology and of finding new ways of doing business. This certainly also applies to international trade and global supply chains. It would not be an exaggeration to say that almost all international trade today is facilitated and enabled by digital and communication technologies.

In this sense, accelerating the digitalization of trade and a move to paperless trade is crucial. The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific assumes importance in this context.

Full implementation of cross-border paperless trade can lead to a 13 per cent reduction in trade costs, on average, as benefits accrue, among other areas, in the simplification of processes and harmonization of standards.

At the same time, making trade inclusive and sustainable remains a challenge.

The fourth global United Nations Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation – led by ESCAP and conducted by the United Nations regional commissions in collaboration with many partners – shows that implementation of trade facilitation measures targeted at groups with special needs, such as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or women traders, is lacking.

Trade facilitation, including through digitalization, needs to better address the challenges faced by disadvantaged groups and sectors that are key to poverty reduction, such as the agricultural sector.

Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, I would like to commend you all for your ambition and commitment to ensure that international trade is inclusive and sustainable and provides affordable and equitable access to essential health products and technologies. I am convinced that the outcome of the G20 deliberations will have important policy implications for ESCAP. Equally, I believe the work by ESCAP can provide useful inputs for your deliberations and future actions.

ESCAP stands ready to support you going forward, and, in particular, we stand ready to support the Government of India during its G20 presidency in 2023 to build on the outcomes of its deliberations as well as to support emerging digital, health-related and other priorities in the area of trade and investment.

Thank you.

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