Brussels Edition: G-20 aims for global anti-pandemic approach

Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

Leaders of the Group of 20 nations will throw their weight behind multilateralism as the path to counter the pandemic – and try to ward off future ones. Today’s virtual Global Health Summit will be hosted by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, whose country holds the G-20 presidency, and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. Participants will adopt a so-called “Declaration of Rome,” according to officials, made up of 16 guiding principles focused on fair distribution of vaccines, ramping up production and the possible use of compulsory licenses. As for the hard facts: von der Leyen is due to announce that “Team Europe” will support production capacity in Africa by developing a number of regional manufacturing hubs across the continent.

What’s Happening
Tax Reform |
An agreement on international tax reform could be reached as soon as this year, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who also heads the eurogroup, told us in an interview. Ireland in the past has staunchly defended how it taxes some of the world’s biggest companies, even in the face of criticism from larger European partners.

Beach Opening | Start making your summer travel plans. EU negotiators last night agreed on the introduction of mutually recognizable certificates that will allow quarantine-free travel within the bloc. The parliament aims to formally adopt the new certificates in early June, allowing them to come into force in July. 

Broker Review | Stock brokers who target retail investors and charge little to no fees for trades are coming under greater scrutiny from EU regulators. Financial Markets Commissioner Mairead McGuinness wrote in a letter seen by Bloomberg that officials are reviewing whether such business models create conflicts of interest that could prevent brokers from acting in their clients’ best interests.

Greens on Carbon | The Greens in the European Union back stable increases of carbon prices, with an aim to triple the price of pollution by the end of the decade. At the same time, the most climate-minded political group in the bloc wants to limit the effect of speculation on the price. 

Portuguese Boost | Portugal said it expects to raise its growth forecast for this year to close to 5% as tourists help boost the recovery and Europe’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign advances. “Tourism is back,” Portuguese Finance Minister Joao Leao said in a Bloomberg TV interview in Lisbon ahead of today's meeting of EU finance chiefs.

In Case You Missed It
China Pact Frozen |
European lawmakers voted to freeze any agreement with China as long as sanctions against EU institutions remain in place. The EU parliament condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the measures recently imposed by Chinese authorities and said talks on ratifying the EU-China Investment Agreement are “not possible for now.” 

Banks Fined | Banks were fined a total of 371 million euros by the European Commission for colluding on government-bond trading during the sovereign debt crisis. UBS will have to pay 172 million euros, with Nomura and UniCredit being handed smaller fines. Antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager called the banks’ actions unacceptable. 

Contract Signed | The European Commission signed its third contract with Pfizer and BioNTech, guaranteeing as many as 1.8 billion coronavirus vaccine doses. The EU is playing it safe, requiring that production is in member states and essential components sourced within the bloc. 

Post-Merkel Debate | German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s would-be successors sparred over defense and foreign policy. In their first public debate, Christian Democrat candidate Armin Laschet backed NATO’s 2% spending goal on defense, while the Green’s Annalena Baerbock called the target “absurd.”

Chart of the Day

The 21st century may see a repetition of the Roaring Twenties surge when global economies will bounce back from the pandemic. However, while the 1920s ended in the Great Depression, there’s no reason to fear a similar development this time, according to Berenberg chief economist Holger Schmieding. At least “as long as policy makers continue to heed the lessons of the 1920s,” he says. If governments deal with five major challenges -- public debt; resilience against shocks; education; pension and entitlement reforms; and climate change -- the economy will thrive.

Today’s Agenda
All times CET.

  • 9 a.m. EU finance ministers and central bankers begin meetings in Lisbon (through Saturday) 
  • 12 p.m. Italy’s Draghi, EU’s von der Leyen speak at Global Health Summit in Rome 
John Follain and Katharina Rosskopf