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What the G20 Must Do

With the coronavirus outbreak having now become a full-blown pandemic that is threatening both the global economy and millions of lives, an international coordinated response is desperately needed. As in the 2008 financial crisis, the G20 must take the lead, starting with its emergency virtual summit next week.

LONDON – Saudi Arabia, this year’s chair of the Group of Twenty (G20), will convene a virtual summit next week to discuss a global response to the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency meeting could not come too soon. Because global health is a collective public good, any threat to it requires a multilateral response.

The health emergency also threatens to trigger a global recession and financial crisis. As we learned in 2008, global economic crises must also be met with a multilateral strategy. Timid, uncoordinated, or unilateral actions by individual countries will be ineffective, at best, and could lead to a downward spiral of “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies.

The G20 is the obvious candidate to play the role of global coordinator. Accounting for around 90% of global GDP, it comprises the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies. And as a forum without a permanent secretariat, it is agile enough to bring the international community together quickly, as it did in November 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.