WASHINGTON – Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations said they will do “whatever is necessary” to ride out the coronavirus pandemic shock, ranging from deploying fiscal measures to supporting efforts to develop a vaccine.
The announcement late Monday followed the first-ever G7 summit via videoconference, which took place amid growing fears that the U.S. and other economies could be tipped into a recession as tougher border controls are instituted and more businesses are shuttering to stem further spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “While current challenges may require national emergency measures, we remain committed to the stability of the global economy.
The statement also said that the G7 will “coordinate measures and do whatever it takes, using all policy tools,” including fiscal and monetary measures, to achieve strong growth in their economies and safeguard against downside risks.
Finance ministers are expected to coordinate weekly on implementing the measures, the statement said, adding that the G7 countries will address disturbances to international supply chains and work to facilitate international trade.
The group, made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as the European Union, will also plan to contribute to measures to protect public health, such as by supporting efforts toward the rapid development of a vaccine and working to increase the availability of medical equipment where it is most needed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after the videoconference that he called on his counterparts to come up with a “strong” message, given concerns that the global economy could suffer adverse impacts of “great magnitude.”
Abe also said he secured support to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in their “complete form” to prove that “humankind can overcome” the raging virus. But he did not indicate whether the leaders discussed any possible changes to Olympic scheduling.
Similarly to other countries, Japan is seeking to combat the spread of the virus with measures such as canceling large events, closing schools and implementing travel restrictions. The Olympics are scheduled to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.
Abe told his G7 peers he is making “all-out efforts” to prepare for the events, a Japanese official said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said at a news conference on coronavirus measures Monday that he had a “very productive” meeting.
In its latest effort to tackle the virus spread, the Trump administration announced new guidelines recommending that people curtail social interactions for 15 days, such as by working or engaging in schooling from home and avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10 people.
Americans are also recommended to avoid discretionary travel as well as eating and drinking in bars, restaurants and food courts.
With New York stocks again meeting fierce selling pressure Monday, Trump said the U.S. “may be” heading into a recession but quickly emphasized that once the virus is contained there will be a “tremendous surge” in the world’s largest economy.
Central banks around the world have been scrambling to calm financial markets that have remained volatile due to deepening uncertainties over the outlook.
The U.S. Federal Reserve cut its key interest rate to near zero in a surprise move Sunday, in addition to an emergency rate cut earlier this month. Central banks in Europe and Japan have followed suit, unveiling packages of additional monetary easing, including expansion of their asset purchase programs to provide ample liquidity to the financial system.
The viral outbreak that began in China in December has led to more than 6,000 deaths and 170,000 infections globally, while subsequent disruptions have slowed exports and production.
The World Health Organization has said the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak has shifted to Europe, with Italy, under a nationwide lockdown, being the hardest-hit among the G7.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced Monday that his country will impose nationwide restrictions on people’s movements for 15 days. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country is closing its borders as a protective measure against the epidemic.
The U.S., meanwhile, plans to host in June the G7 summit at Camp David, the presidential retreat near Washington. Trump said he thinks the meeting can still be held there, although he noted that the issue was not discussed during Monday’s videoconference.
Some G7 ministerial meetings planned in the U.S. have been switched to videoconferences instead of in-person gatherings.