Spotlight: B20 Saudi Arabia Trade & Investment Taskforce

22 April 2020
Ms. Lubna S. Olayan


Ms. Lubna S. Olayan

What does it mean to you personally to head the B20 Trade & Investment Taskforce?

I am excited that my home country of Saudi Arabia is the first nation in the Middle East to host a G20 Summit. The Summit will bring us several opportunities to collaborate with other leaders across developed and developing economies on issues of great importance impacting global economies today. Case in point is how G20 leaders, the private sector and critical organizations including the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the International Chamber of Commerce are closely collaborating on global measurements to contain the spread and financial impact of COVID-19.

Being invited to lead the B20 Saudi Arabia Trade & Investment Taskforce is, personally, a great honor. This is an opportunity to promote conversations and drive policy recommendations that advance a renewed global commitment towards multilateralism and trade liberalization, which are critical pillars to promote fair and open international trade and investment.

As protectionism rises globally and impacts businesses across different sectors, we need to champion actions that enable micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to flourish, drop barriers for global cooperation and create a trade agenda that is reflective of today’s needs.

Can you provide an overview of the priorities for your taskforce?

The Trade & Investment Taskforce is composed of 133 members and co-chaired by global leaders such as Mark Tucker, Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings PLC UK; Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman, SEB; Jaime de Ayala, Chairman and CEO, Ayala Corporation; Thomas Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Ju Weimin, VC and President, China Investment Corporation; Gabriele Galateri, Chairman, Generali Group; and Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons.

During the B20 Saudi Arabia, our taskforce will seek to develop and then propose recommendations to strengthen confidence in the global trading and investment system by focusing our discussions on:

  • Dissuading trade-restricting measures by revamping the current system of trade and investment
  • Ensuring businesses fully embrace the benefits of e-commerce
  • Enabling greater access to trade and investment to drive economic diversification
  • Positioning trade and investment as catalyst for inclusive and sustainable economic development

What are the goals of your taskforce?

One of the main goals for the Trade & Investment Taskforce this year is to address how critical structural changes such as digitalization and climate change impact trade and investment, as well as the broader global economy. As our taskforce gathers to discuss such critical issues, we aim to provide policy recommendations that foster an environment for e-commerce – not only for large corporations, but for start-ups and MSMEs who critically rely on such an environment to flourish. The current COVID-19 crisis certainly underscores the importance of such digital trade.

Cooperation is critical and alignment amongst different parties is the only way to close the financial gap to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations. We believe that trade and investment are the building blocks for global prosperity, and we hope, as business leaders, to shape the agenda for change. Our goal is to drive action through collaboration.

What is your taskforce doing to address the current COVID-19 pandemic?

In the context of COVID-19, we are urging the G20 to recognize the role of global trade and the importance of global supply chains in responding to the crisis. Immediate action needs to be taken to support the supply and appropriate movement of critical goods and services, such as front-line medical products and supplies.

The G20 must offer support and assistance to all companies, but in particular MSMEs, which have been heavily impacted by this crisis. An important step in addressing this issue is to create a new holistic pandemic-specific engagement group using the B20’s existing infrastructure. This body needs to address health coordination, economic coordination, trade, employment and tourism as top priority industries impacted by COVID-19. International trade and global value chains can be a part of the solution to this crisis, if they are utilized correctly. The B20 must drive action through collaboration to properly address this worldwide pandemic.

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