As G20 leaders arrive in Buenos Aires to start their 13th summit on November 30, 2018, many observers wonder if they will fail, for the first time, to produce a collective communiqué at their summit’s end. Most assume that if they do, it will contain only a collection of watered-down, general platitudes, in sharp contrast to the 529 precise, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments that they made at their last summit, in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017. Yet even if these G20 politicians produce a plethora of promises on paper, the key question is whether they will keep them back home, before they meet again in a short seven months at the next G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28–29, 2019.
Since the start of G20 summitry in November 2008, the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto and its partners at the Russian Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow have been carefully, systematically assessing G20 members’ compliance with the priority summit commitments their leaders make. They have found that from 2008 to 2016, they have complied with their commitments at an average level of 73%. Compliance started at a high 83% for Washington in 2008, fell to about 62% at the next three summits, rose from Seoul in 2010 to about 77% at Antalya in 2015, then rose again to 80% for Hangzhou in 2016. Compliance was led by the United Kingdom at 89%, the European Union at 87%, France, Germany and Canada at 86%, and Australia at 81%. In the middle came the United States at 78%, Japan at 77%, Korea at 74%, Italy and Mexico at 73%, and Russia at 72%. At the bottom came Brazil and South Africa at 68%, China at 66%, India at 64%, Turkey at 57%, Saudi Arabia at 56%, Indonesia at 55% and Argentina at 54%.
The most recent report, with the 17 priority commitments from the 2017 Hamburg Summit, shows that compliance has soared. It reached a new peak of 87%, surpassing the 83% at Washington amid the shock of the American-turned-global financial crises proliferation then.
By member, compliance with the Hamburg commitments was led by Canada, the European Union, France, the United Kingdom and Indonesia, all with a near perfect 97%, followed by G20 host Germany at 94%. The lowest compliance comes from the United States at 68%, along with Turkey with 62% and Saudi Arabia at 79%. This shows that the United States under President Donald Trump complies with the G20 summit commitments he agreed to with his colleagues to a substantial degree. Moreover, many countries whose compliance had long lagged has now soared, including Saudi Arabia, which is scheduled to host the G20 summit in 2020. German chancellor Angela Merkel those hosted the most successful G20 summit ever, both in the number of commitments it produced and members’ compliance with them.
By subject, compliance was led by the commitments on financial regulation (Basel III) and taxation (base erosion and profit shifting) with a perfect 100%. Then comes tax administration (fair and modern systems) and health (health system strengthening) at 98% each; digitalization at 95%; sustainable energy at 93%; macroeconomics (inclusive business ecosystems) and environment (water reduction) at 90% each; alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals at 88%; development (digital and financial literacy), food and agriculture (in the context of information and communications technologies) and gender (access to labour markets) at 85%; and climate change (resilience) at 83%. In the middle are climate change (energy efficiency) at 80%, corruption (resilience) at 70%, and trade (investment frameworks) at 78%. At the bottom comes migration at 68%.
Despite this very strong compliance, it is important to now find ways to improve G20 compliance, given the growing demands for G20 governance and the new strains that have risen among key members now (Kirton and Larionova 2018). The most recent analysis by the G20 Research Group suggests that the best way to do so is to have meetings of G20 ministers, particular those responsible for the subjects where greater compliance is wanted the most.
Kirton, John and Marina Larionova, eds. (2018). Accountability for Effectiveness in Global Governance (Abindgon: Routledge).