On 3 July a briefing was provided to the Canberra-based diplomatic corps on Australia’s 2014 G20 presidency and preparations for the Brisbane Leaders Summit with a focus on the June meetings of the Finance and Central Bank Deputies and Sherpas. Speakers represented the G20 Taskforce in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of the Treasury, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Trade and Investment Queensland.
Noting that many diplomats from non-G20 countries were present, representatives began by outlining the relationship between official and ministerial G20 meetings through the year and the Leaders Summit. Australia’s G20 presidency was currently at the half way mark of this process in 2014, with the Leaders Summit to be held in Brisbane, Queensland, on 15-16 November.
Speakers said that a pleasing level of progress had been attained so far in Australia’s presidency, but noted a lot of work remained to be done to deliver outcomes for the Leaders Summit in line with the Australian Prime Minister’s commitment to delivering ambitious, concrete outcomes that lift growth and create jobs. Australia’s objective was for the G20 to make a difference to people’s lives – both those within and outside the G20.
Two main themes of Australia’s host year were stimulating growth and creating jobs, and building global economic resilience. Already the G20 had demonstrated its commitment to these goals by agreeing in Sydney in February to raise collective GDP by more than 2 percent above what it would otherwise be on current policies by 2018. If successful, this commitment would add over US$2 trillion more to the world economy, lead to significantly more jobs and also create positive spill-overs to non-G20 countries as a result of the G20 economies growing more rapidly than they otherwise would.
Various meetings had taken place in the preceding weeks: Finance and Central Bank Deputies had met on 22-23 June; a joint Finance Deputies and Sherpas meeting had taken place on 23 June; and a Sherpa meeting was held on 23-24 June. All meetings had been hosted in the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
These meetings were marked by a strong sense of good will and discussions on the country growth strategies – which set out individual and collective steps G20 members will take to reach the 2 percent growth target – were highly cooperative. Members discussed the actions contained in their country growth strategies, which pleasingly, included a significant number of new measures. Members were asked to review their strategies and keep their ambition high as more work still needed to be done to meet the target.
Good progress was also being achieved on the financial regulation agenda with meetings productive and benefiting from the strong leadership of the Financial Stability Board. Representatives noted the G20’s strong, collective will behind its endorsement of a common reporting standard that will enhance transparency in the exchange of tax information between jurisdictions and reduce opportunities for tax evasion and avoidance, as well as its commitment to a global response to address base erosion and profit shifting. The G20 is also working to ensure that developing countries participate in and benefit from the G20’s tax agenda.
Australia was currently at the high point of preparations for the 19 July Trade Ministers Meeting to be held in Sydney. The meeting would focus on the contribution trade makes to growth, making sure strong trade components were contained in members’ country growth strategies, and the future of the multilateral trading system.
A number of innovative approaches were being employed by the Australian presidency to ensure cohesion and integration across the G20 agenda and its work streams. This included holding the Joint Finance Deputies (representatives of finance ministers) and Sherpas (representatives of leaders) meeting much earlier in the presidency than normal. The Australian co-chair of the Development Working Group had also been invited to participate in some of the Sherpa working sessions in Melbourne to ensure policy coherence with the development work stream. Similarly, in order to promote strong dialogue, representatives of the non-government engagement groups were invited to participate in a one and a half hour long session as part of the Joint Finance Deputies and Sherpas meeting on 22 June. This meeting featured presentations from business (the B20), civil society (C20), labour organisations (L20), think tanks (T20) and youth (Y20).
As a special guest, Trade and Investment Queensland (TIQ) was invited to address the group on its work around Queensland hosting the G20 Summits in Cairns in September and Brisbane in November. TIQ offered to assist in the development of visit programs around the summit for foreign government leaders and officials, media and companies.
This summary reflects the main issues led by the participant departments and does not purport to represent all issues or work being undertaken across the G20 agenda by Australian agencies. The next briefing is expected to be held in August.