Australia’s G20 presidency: Bringing benefits for everyone

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Heather Smith, Australian Sherpa to the G20 ©G20 Australia

Each G20 presidency faces its own challenges. A presidency must respond to global economic conditions, it must build on previous work, and it must seize opportunities to progress with reforms where members can reach consensus.

As we headed into Australia’s presidency, we knew that the forum was at a point of transition. If we wanted the G20 to remain the premier international forum for economic co-operation, we needed to deliver substantive outcomes, communicate these clearly and have G20 members commit to actions that will make a difference to the global economy.

In Brisbane, we want leaders to have the discussions needed to achieve real and lasting growth. But our access to leaders’ time is very limited. This is why Australia has kept a tight agenda based around the aims of promoting stronger economic growth and better employment outcomes, particularly through boosting investment and trade; building a more resilient global economy that is better able to deal with threats to global stability; and ensuring that the world has institutions relevant to the 21st century.

While we haven’t been working in crisis conditions, we continue to face a difficult global economic outlook. The International Monetary Fund and the OECD have revised their global forecasts for 2014 and 2015, and the World Trade Organization has recently lowered its global trade forecasts.

Against that background, we have achieved much this year. G20 members have brought forward over 900 new measures to bring us within reach of the G20 aim to increase output by more than 2% over the next four years. We have made good progress on addressing the global infrastructure gap, with the G20’s commitment to a Global Infrastructure Initiative that puts in place a multi-year agenda to increase the quality of investment in infrastructure worldwide.

The OECD’s work has been valuable in revealing that the way we trade today is changing, and that our policies need also to change in order to most benefit from the emergence of global value chains. Many of the G20’s reform measures will help to lower the cost of trading for business by streamlining customs procedures, reducing regulatory burdens and enhancing the efficiency of services.

We have strong support for action on increasing women’s participation in the workforce, with the recommendation by G20 labour and employment ministers for leaders to endorse the goal of reducing the current gap in participation between men and women in G20 economies by 25% by 2025. This could bring well over 100 million women into the labour force, and contribute to stronger and more inclusive growth.

On tax, working closely with the OECD and in consultation with developing countries, the G20 has also made good progress on ensuring that businesses and individuals meet their legitimate tax obligations. We have taken steps to ensure the transparency, integrity and fairness of the international tax system, including by endorsing a Common Reporting Standard for the automatic exchange of information
between national tax authorities.

There are challenges ahead. Some issues will remain difficult domestically for G20 members. This is where the political will of leaders, and support by their constituents, is essential. This is why Australia, on behalf of the membership, has actively sought the views of business, civil society, labour, youth and thought leaders. They have made valuable contributions.

We have also been talking to non-G20 countries this year about how the G20’s work is important and relevant to them–particularly to developing countries. Developing and emerging economies now contribute the bulk of global economic growth. For this reason, the G20 is committed to strong, sustainable and balanced growth, to which developing countries can contribute, and from which they can benefit.

We need to be accountable for the commitments we have made in 2014, and will put in place measures to ensure transparency in delivering the actions each G20 member has identified in its growth strategies. We know that the legitimacy of the G20 as the world’s premier global economic forum depends on having the support of the citizens in every country, because G20 actions are ultimately aimed at bringing benefits to everyone around the world.

The world will be looking to the Brisbane summit for outcomes that make a real difference. The summit will bring all our efforts together. Leaders will issue the Brisbane Action Plan that will feature our growth strategies and steps to implement the measures to achieve our growth goal.

Australia has made a concerted effort to ensure the G20 has a long-term impact on global economic challenges by focusing on lifting growth and creating quality jobs. We’ve worked to build trusting relationships between groups and between individuals, because relationships built on trust provide the foundation for co-operation. In doing so, we hope that we have been able to improve the overall effectiveness of the G20 and to hand over to Turkey a forum focused on implementation, to address the things that matter most.

It has been a privilege for Australia to host the G20 in 2014. We believe in the importance of the forum, which is why we have worked hard to deliver outcomes at the Brisbane summit.
What we achieve in Brisbane will be testament to the efforts of all G20 members, guests and partners who have worked with us in a true spirit of co-operation towards shared objectives. The work of the international organisations, particularly the OECD, has been critical to our understanding of the problems we face and to assess our progress. I am thankful for their significant contribution to the G20 endeavour.

I am very proud to have been G20 sherpa during Australia’s presidency. I am confident that when leaders return home after the summit, real progress will have been made. For all those who have been a part of Australia’s G20 presidency, I want to say thank you for showing the world the contribution that we can make to issues that matter to people everywhere.

© OECD Observer No 300, Q3 2014

Useful links

Australia: Brisbane 2014 special

G20 Brisbane 2014

Economic data


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