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The Trade Cure for the Global Economy

As world leaders work to revitalize multilateralism to confront the COVID-19 crisis, they must also reshape it in a way that recognizes and reflects the many dimensions of global interdependency. This means, first and foremost, ensuring an open and sustainable global trading system.

HONG KONG – The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world into perilous, uncharted territory from which no country will emerge unscathed. Over half of the global population is under some form of lockdown. All economies, rich and poor, are falling into recession and can limit the fallout only by working together.

China – the pandemic’s first epicenter – offers insight into the need to work together. The months-long lockdown of Hubei province, together with strict movement restrictions across the country, caused a nearly 40% drop in year-on-year industrial profits in January and February. Factories began to reopen in March, but have faced order cancellations, postponements, and payment delays, as overseas buyers struggle to cope with the pandemic’s effects.

So, even as public health is recovering, the speed of China’s economic recovery will depend at least partly on the rest of the world. Given how deeply interconnected the global economy is, this will be true for every country: even as the pandemic is controlled at home, disruptions elsewhere in the world – and, potentially, additional waves of outbreaks – will impede recovery.