G20 trade ministers reaffirmed Saturday 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 and Investment Minister Andrew Robb saying all nations were still committed to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) struck by World Trade organization (WTO) members last December in Bali.
The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85 per cent of global gross domestic product and over 75 per cent of global trade.
In his opening remarks to the meeting Robb said that “trade and investment has become of great interest to replace, in many cases, growth that has been driven in the last few years by debt finance government spending.” Trade ministers need to create an enabling environment for the private sector that allows them to get on with growing their businesses by improving their competitive position and much of this can be encouraged by changes each make to its own domestic policies, he said.
“We spend a lot of time as trade ministers talking about what we can do collectively or between one another or within regional groupings but when you think about it, so much of the benefit of any agreement, is in the end, what structural adjustment it really forces on our own countries.”
Business leaders at a B20 summit in Sydney earlier this week made a series of recommendations on structural reforms and free trade that could boost global growth by up to $3.4 trillion and create millions of jobs. They included a call for the free flow of goods, services, labour and capital, an effective and transparent regulatory framework, as well as structural reforms that would boost trade and lift infrastructure investment.