COVID-19 crisis to dominate G20 summit

Agence France-Presse . Riyadh | Published: 22:40, Nov 21,2020 | Updated: 22:40, Nov 21,2020


Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 summit Saturday in a first for an Arab nation, with the downsized virtual forum dominated by efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and a crippling economic crisis.

The two-day meeting of the world’s wealthiest nations comes as president Donald Trump refuses to concede a bitter election and campaigners criticise what they call the G20’s inadequate response to the worst global recession in decades.

World leaders will huddle virtually as international efforts intensify for a large-scale roll out of coronavirus vaccines after a breakthrough in trials, and as calls grow for G20 nations to plug funding shortfalls.

Amid a raging pandemic, the summit, which is usually an opportunity for one-on-one engagements between world leaders, is reduced to brief online sessions of what some observers call ‘digital diplomacy’.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will preside over the summit, with sources close to the organisers saying climate change was among the issues topping the agenda.

World leaders, from German chancellor Angela Merkel to Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, are expected to make speeches at the summit, the sources said.

Trump will also participate, a US official said.

G20 nations have contributed more than $21 billion to combat the pandemic, which has infected 56 million people globally and left 1.3 million dead, and injected $11 trillion to ‘safeguard’ the virus-battered world economy, organisers said.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development projects global economic output will contract by 4.5 per cent this year.

The summit ‘will seek to strengthen international cooperation to support the global economic recovery,’ said Saudi finance minister Mohammed al-Jadaan.

‘The G20 committed in March to do ‘whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic and protect lives and livelihoods,’ UK prime minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

‘As we meet this weekend, we must hold ourselves to account for that promise.’

But G20 leaders face mounting pressure to help stave off possible credit defaults across developing nations.

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