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Xi calls for coordinated response to coronavirus at G-20 meeting

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, chairs a symposium at the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University in Beijing, capital of China, March 2, 2020.

Yan Yan | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on leaders from the Group of 20 nations for greater international coordination of macroeconomic policy to restore confidence in global growth in face of the impact of the coronavirus.

Leaders from major world economies, including the U.S., Japan and Germany, held an extraordinary meeting via video conference to respond to the global pandemic. The disease first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December and killed more than 3,200 people in the country since. Overnight, data showed the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has now surpassed that of China.

“Countries need to leverage and coordinate their macro policies to counteract the negative impact and prevent the world economy from falling into recession,” Xi said, according to a state media transcript of his remarks on Thursday.

The G-20 leaders said in a joint statement about the meeting that they are releasing more than $5 trillion into the global economy in response to the social, economic and financial impact of the virus. A Chinese foreign ministry official said that as part of that, China is implementing $344 billion, mainly in fiscal measures, according to Reuters.

In his speech, Xi called on member nations to cut tariffs, remove barriers and support smooth flow of trade. He also called for better coordination of financial regulation to keep global financial markets stable, and efforts to keep global supply chains stable.

“What China will do in this regard is to increase its supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, daily necessities, and anti-epidemic (goods) and other supplies to the international market,” Xi said. He added the country would pursue “proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy,” while moving ahead with efforts to improve the business environment and allow greater foreign access. 

It was not immediately clear from the statement whether Xi meant that China would give away supplies, or that it just hopes to sell more. China has donated some supplies externally since the crisis began, as well as accept assistance from outside.

While the virus now appears under control in China, it has spread rapidly overseas in the last few weeks, killing more than 20,000 people outside the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As China did in late January and early February, governments around the world have now locked down cities and announced stay-home policies. Worries of a economic recession as a result of the drop in business activity have roiled global financial markets, although some recovered slightly this week.

“We project a contraction of global output in 2020, and recovery in 2021,” International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement following the conference call. “How deep the contraction and how fast the recovery depends on the speed of containment of the pandemic and on how strong and coordinated our monetary and fiscal policy actions are.”

In China, more than half the country extended a Lunar New Year holiday shutdown by at least a week, and many businesses are still not fully back to normal operations.

In a sign of how China is recovering, the domestic epicenter of the virus, Wuhan city, is set to emerge from lockdown on April 8.  Economists widely expect China, the world’s second-largest economy, to contract in the first quarter of this year, and post growth in the low single-digits for the entire year.

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