The work of the G20 benefits from the agenda-setting of the country holding the presidency as well as from the continuity that can be kept in the agendas, year after year. From this perspective, Germany, presiding over the G20 during 2017, will be able to fruitfully take up important items that have been developed under the Chinese presidency. The necessity of continuity has clearly emerged in the conclusions of the T20, the group of think tanks of the G20 countries, including ISPI as the Italian participant, which concluded its Chinese sessions with a July meeting in Beijing. The work of the G20 should also be well connected with that of the G7: Italy, chairing the latter in 2017, can play a crucial role in this respect.
Among the priorities stressed during the 2016 works of the G20, some deserve special attention for next year. Among them, infrastructures and trade play a special role in the effort of promoting inclusive global growth. Mobilizing finance to build sustainable and state of the art infrastructure is crucial both to better connect the world economies, thus promoting trade, and to stimulate aggregate global demand for public investments, which has now been weak for too long. But remedying the slowdown in world trade is an urgent task in itself and should profit in many ways from enhanced cooperation inside the G20. Evidence is abundant that non-tariff barriers and protectionist measures keep spoiling the prospects of global trade, growth and FDIs. Moreover, both Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are at risk of failure.
The reform of global financial regulation and of the international monetary system, including radical changes in the mission and governance of the IMF, has been for long on the agenda of the G20, with little results until now. China and the US have often shown divergent views on these matters and Europe should play a crucial role in pushing for progress, provided the risk of moving towards the disintegration of the euro area is avoided. Strengthening global cooperation in macro-financial issues would also allow tackling with more impetus the serious problem of excessive indebtedness that has been plaguing the world with increasing intensity since the early 2000s, with the global debt-to-GDP ratio reaching dangerous highs.
Last but not least, a brief list of topics for the G20 must include a rather general theme that was prominently on the agenda of the Chinese presidency and should retain a special place in the future: pursuing global public goods, including dealing with migration, poverty and inequalities (both across and within countries) among the “losers” in the globalization process. These losers must be compensated by finding new ways to support their welfare in order to smooth the tensions that tend to reverse global integration and to progress towards an increasingly open international society.
As for migration, it would be easier to cope with the current Mediterranean problem if it could be considered part of a global process of relocation of human beings and labor forces, responding to a variety of economic and political developments and shocks, a process that should attract the careful and continuous attention of an organization such as the G20. China, for instance, can tap into the experience of its challenging internal migration problem.
Besides compensating the losers, the net benefits of globalization can be enhanced by investing in education, thus helping the citizens of the world to adapt with profit to its increasing complexity, and by enhancing the legitimacy and effectiveness of the various aspects and institutions of global governance. From this point of view, the G20 should keep discussing and reforming its own organization and its relationship with other international institutions.
Franco Bruni, ISPI Vice President