G20 trade ministers reaffirm growth commitments

July 20, 2014 - 1:35:30 am
Saudi Arabia’s Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfig bin Fouzan Al Rabiah (left) and Russia’s Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukaev at the G20 Trade Ministers meeting in Sydney yesterday.

SYDNEY: G20 trade ministers reaffirmed yesterday their commitment to free trade as a central driver of growth and to streamline the flow of goods through borders.

The ministers met in Sydney for the latest round of talks among the world’s leading economies, with Australia’s Trade Minister Andrew Robb saying all nations were still committed to the Bali agreement struck in December.

Robb said while some G20 members raised concerns about the deal, which streamlines the global flow of goods, “every country there at the meeting did reaffirm their commitment to all nine (elements of the Bali agreement) being completed”.

The Bali agreement by the World Trade Organisation’s 160 members saw them commit to lowering global trade barriers, with the intention of making it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets.

French Trade Minister Fleur Pellerin said the G20 also discussed how free trade was key in driving economic growth amid fiscal consolidation and declining government revenues. “We focused a lot on free trade being one of the leverages that we can use to boost growth in France ... investment and trade ... are definitely the main aspects of our growth agenda,” Pellerin said.

The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on Thursday had threatened to overshadow the summit, with both Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Robb meeting the Russian trade representative on the sidelines of the talks.

Earlier, Robb warned that Canberra may consider trade sanctions against Moscow as a result of the crash, which killed 298 people, including 28 Australians, subject to how it “responds, cooperates and is proactive in seeking answers”.

Australia, along with several other countries, already has imposed sanctions and travel bans on some Russians and Ukrainians.

Senior ministers have refused on comment on whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin would be invited to the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane, Queensland’s capital, in November.

A small protest in Sydney near the talks called for Putin to be blocked from the leaders’ summit, with organiser Pete Shmigel from the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations calling it a “defining moment” for the international community.

Despite the talk of trade sanctions, Robb said the G20 ministers focused on their goal to boost economic growth by an additional 2 percent over the next five years — an agreement the countries’ finance ministers signed up to at a meeting in February. AFP

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