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G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Make COVID Commitments in Unprecedented Conference Call

Brittaney Warren and John Kirton, G7 Research Group
March 5, 2020

At the end of their emergency conference call meeting on March 3, 2020, G7 finance ministers and central bank governors issued a short collective statement on the escalating health epidemic of COVID-19. The statement contained four commitments. All four are focused on macroeconomic policy outcomes, identifying the virus as a threat to economic growth. The ministers and thus their leaders committed to cooperate to protect the economy against this downside risk, to support price stability and to implement fiscal measures, while also strengthening health systems.

Between 2012 and 2020, the G7 has made 92 collective, politically binding, future-oriented, measurable commitments on several subjects, such as terrorist financing, tax modernization and the digital economy (see Appendix A). Between its 2012 and 2015 meetings, the G7 finance ministers and central bankers did not make any public commitments on these or any other subjects, although they met in three of these years. At their 2015 meeting in Dresden they made 15 commitments. They made a high of 40 commitments at their 2017 meeting in Bari, Italy. This number fell to six at the 2018 Whistler meeting and rose again to 27 at the 2019 Chantilly meeting. Thus far in 2020 the G7 has had this one emergency meeting with a statement containing four commitments.

Although only four commitments were made during the conference call on March 3, this was the first time the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors have made commitments focusing on health as a risk to global macroeconomic stability and growth. They have not responded to past global health threats in this way. This includes the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, Ebola in 2014 and 2018, and antimicrobial resistance in recent years. This suggests that concerns are high that COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, is having a greater impact on global economic activity than earlier disease outbreaks. Germs are not the only thing in the air; speculation and fears of a recession are floating around, too (see, for example, "Will the Coronovirus Cause a Recession?" published in the New York Times). Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has cautioned against an overreaction, calling for a "proportionate" response to the threat. The G7 finance ministers and central bank governors have therefore agreed to "stand ready to cooperate further on timely and effective measures."

List of 2020 COVID Commitments

According to the G7 Research Group's methodology, two of these commitments were "hard" and two were "soft." The former met all four criteria for identifying G7 summit commitments, of being collective, politically binding, future oriented and sufficiently precise to be measurable. The latter "soft" commitments fully met the two criteria of collectivity and measurability, and somewhat met the two criteria of being politically binding and future oriented.

Commitments

2020-1: Given the potential impacts of COVID-19 on global growth, we reaffirm our commitment to use all appropriate policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable growth and safeguard against downside risks.

2020-2: G7 central banks will continue to fulfill their mandates, thus supporting price stability and economic growth while maintaining the resilience of the financial system.

2020-3: Alongside strengthening efforts to expand health services, G7 finance ministers are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy during this phase.

2020-4: G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors stand ready to cooperate further on timely and effective measures.


Appendix A: G7 Finance Ministers' & Central Bank Governors' Commitments, 2012–2020

Meeting Number of commitments
2012 October 11, Tokyo, Japan 0
2013 May 10-11, Aylsbury, United Kingdom 0
2014 April 11, Washington DC, United States 0
2015 May 27-29, Dresden, Germany 0
2016 May 20-21, Sendai, Japan 15
2017 May 11-13, Bari, Italy 40
2018 May 31-June 2, Whistler, Canada 6
2019 July 17-18, Chantilly, France 27*
2020 March 3, conference call 4

*These 27 commitments have yet to be confirmed by the G7 Research Group.
Note: the 2012, 2013 and 2015 meetings did not have an outcome document. The meeting in 2015 was cancelled; no meeting was held and thus no document produced.

Coding notes for 2020 commitment selection:


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