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G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors
Come Together to Counter COVID-19

John Kirton and Brittaney Warren, G20 Research Group
March 12, 2020

On March 6, 2020, G20 finance ministers and central bank governors held an emergency conference call to focus on the deadly COVID-19 virus, which is rapidly escalating and spreading throughout G20 member countries and beyond. They did so three days after the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors had held a similar call, which was immediately followed by substantial cuts to policy interest rates and other measures to implement the commitments they collectively made on that call. Their G20 counterparts on March 6 made six precise, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments (see Appendix A). All of them focused on health and, specifically, the COVID-19 virus taking the central global stage. This was far fewer than the earlier recent standalone meetings of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, which had all been regularly scheduled ones. The previous G20 finance meetings made one health commitment at Chengdu in July 2016, none at Baden Baden in 2017 or in Buenos Aires in 2018, and one at Fukuoka in June 2019 (see Appendix B). At all four of those earlier meetings, the focus was on financial regulation, economic growth, taxation and reform of the international financial institutions.

In their March 6 call, G20 finance ministers and central bank governors pledged "further actions, including fiscal and monetary measures" to respond to the virus, support the economy and maintain financial system resilience. They also promised to continue working closely with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Financial Stability Board, and to support strong coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO). But they notably did not pledge any new money for the WHO, or even acknowledge the need for such support. They ended by committing only to review their individual and coordinated action in response to COVID-19.

It remains to be seen whether the G20 members will implement their commitments as swiftly, strongly and in such a broadly shared way as their G7 members did after they met alone on March 3.

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Appendix A: Commitments from G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Statement on COVID-19 on March 6, 2020

Compiled by Brittaney Warren, G20 Research Group, March 12, 2020

2020-1: We fully support countries' ongoing measures to contain the outbreak, treat those affected and prevent further transmission. (health)

2020-2: We are ready to take further actions, including fiscal and monetary measures, as appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus, support the economy during this phase and maintain the resilience of the financial system. (macroeconomic policy)

2020-3: We will be working with the international community to assist developing countries to cope with the impact of the outbreak. (health)

2020-4: To this end, we are working closely with the IMF, the WBG, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Financial Stability Board (FSB), and support strong coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), in particular with a view to sharing information, assessing needs and devising policy options that countries can implement in response to COVID-19 outbreak. (health)

2020-5: We reiterate our commitment to use all available policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, and safeguard against downside risks. (macroeconomic policy)

2020-6: We will continue to review our individual and coordinated actions in response to COVID-19. (health)

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Appendix B: G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Commitments 2016-2020

Compiled by Brittaney Warren, G20 Research Group, March 12, 2020

Issue area Total Chengdu
July 2016
Baden Baden
March 2017
Buenos Aires
July 2018
Fukuoka
June 2019
Conference call
March 2020
Financial regulation 28 10 7 7 4  
Macroeconomics 19 5 5 2 5 2
Taxation 11 1 5 1 4  
IFI reform 7   3   4  
Health 6 1     1 4
Crime and corruption 6   1   5  
International cooperation 6 1 4   1  
Terrorism 5 2 1 1 1  
Debt 4       4  
Trade 3 3        
Development 3 1 1   1  
Climate 2 2        
Energy 2 1 1      
Digitalization 1     1    
Total 113 27 28 12 30 6

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