Global trade key to better future for all

Updated: October 21, 2020 Source: China Daily
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Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai, China, Oct 19, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world, but it has not broken us.

Nearly a million people have died worldwide, and the death toll continues to rise. We must confront the onslaught of the pandemic with fortitude, resolve and unity, not with fear, division and despondence. The history of humanity is the history of triumph against all odds. This time will be no different.

The global economy is in crisis, with world output projected to shrink by nearly $5 trillion this year. Millions of jobs have already been lost, many of which will never come back. Yet we are seeing slivers of hope.

In addition to China's continuing economic recovery, as evidenced by government data released on Monday showing that GDP grew by 4.9 percent in the third quarter, the economies of the United States and Germany are showing signs of resilience and recovery as well. Consumer confidence is rising, and retail spending is on the rebound.

However, the outlook for the rest of the world is less promising. Poverty is rising, not only in the developing world but also in the most advanced economies. This will inevitably lead to higher levels of inequality, with serious consequences for social cohesion, peace and stability.

The glimmers of hope notwithstanding, we must guard against complacency. Let us not focus too narrowly on the growth numbers or the shape of the recovery this year. Economic growth this year matters, but what matters more is how this will affect growth during the next five or 10 years.

The economic response and the choices we are making now will shape the path of the world economy for years to come. There is little room for mistakes. We must resist the temptation of seeing recovery as a zero-sum game among countries, with a few winning the race while others fall behind. We are all in this together, and we must recover together.

The United Nations is commemorating its 75th anniversary this year. As the community of nations, the UN has delivered unprecedented prosperity over the past decades. But our cherished goal of an inclusive, equitable and sustainable world is still a long way off. Thus, our vulnerability to the pandemic must serve as a wake-up call for a more united world. We must take this opportunity to recover better, leaving no country or community behind.

There are four objectives that we must prioritize now.

First, as we strive to save lives, we must also save livelihoods. When confronted with difficult trade-offs, we must keep in mind that loss of jobs will exacerbate hunger, poverty and inequality.

Second, boosting investments-building and rebuilding physical infrastructures-must remain a critical priority for creating jobs and greening our economies. This is our path to a more inter-connected, inter-dependent and climate-resilient future.

Third, we must prioritize improving our human capital. There is a pressing need for augmenting investments in health, education, skills and technical know-how, to ensure the livelihoods of future generations. This will also require us to rethink, pace and sequence technological progress to prevent a recovery that is jobless.

Finally, it is time for us to put our commitment to universal social protection into action. For far too long, social protection has been a footnote in mainstream economic policies that prioritized efficiency and profit over the well-being of people. The current crises should allow us to change course in the direction of universal social protection.

In order to realize these objectives, we must deploy all tools at our disposal. We must ensure that trade-a critical tool of development and well-being-does not become collateral damage of the pandemic.

Indeed, international trade is not just the glue that binds nations together. It is also the wellspring of jobs, investment, technology transfers and innovation. The gains from trade enabled governments in Europe, North America and East Asia to extend safety nets to those who did not benefit, and thus create more inclusive and prosperous societies.

The developing countries must have their opportunity, too. In our darkest hours, we must strengthen multilateralism and global dialogue to rekindle the spirit of mutual trust, unity, partnership and inter-dependence.

We must collectively safeguard and promote international trade to boost investment, protect livelihoods and promote well-being. This is the only way for us to recover better and rise stronger.

Editor: 王予