At the close of the B20 Tokyo summit in March 2019, the B20 joint recommendations on this year’s topic, Society 5.0 for SDGs, were handed over to the G20 chair, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. As in previous years, the B20 supports and promotes the mission of the G20 in providing solutions to global challenges through invaluable expertise and concrete policy proposals. This year was no exception. The joint recommendations spanned across the broad focus areas of digital transformation, trade and investment, energy and environment, quality infrastructure as well as health and well-being. The B20 Tokyo summit culminated with targeted and precise propositions for the G20 to act on these issues on the national and multilateral levels, with actions intended to complement one another and allow countries to develop individually while also cooperating closely through multilateral fora such as the UN COP, the WTO and the BEPS framework.
Keidanren, the Japanese business federation, recently undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the integration of the B20 Tokyo Summit joint recommendations into the recent G20 ministerial statements on trade, the digital economy, finance and central banks, and energy transition and the global environment. The evaluation reviews ministerial and chair statements, Communiques, policy priorities and shared principles resulting from these meetings. In total, Keidanren found that B20 recommendations were integrated into the ministerial statements at a 75 percent rate, largely due to discrepancies between B20 recommendations and G20 statements on trade and investment - the incorporation for all other aforementioned policy areas was more solid and precise.
• Digital Transformation for All: The B20 Tokyo Summit recommendations, including establishing a next-generation data governance framework, building multilateral consensus on digital taxation, supporting further dissemination of digital technology, and boosting the usage of “trustworthy” artificial intelligence, were solidly incorporated into G20 ministerial statements. In this policy area, only the proposals regarding advocacy for international cooperation within the cybersecurity space were merely partially reflected.
• Energy and the Environment for All: B20 proposals were also very well reflected in the G20 ministerial statements, including those on globally realizing lower emissions in the long-term, establishing a stable material-cycle society through addressing marine plastic litter and illegal waste disposal, and protecting and treasuring biodiversity on the local level.
• Quality Infrastructure for All: B20 Tokyo Summit recommendations, including effective mobilization of financial resources, local high-quality job creation, capacity building and technology transfer, were incorporated to a very high extent into the G20 ministerial statements.
• Health and Well-Being for All: The B20 proposals, including leveraging digital technologies in the health sector, championing universal health coverage and promoting wellness in aging societies, were reflected almost entirely into G20 ministerial statements.
Trade and Investment for All
However, the B20 recommendations on trade and investment were only partially integrated, at best, into G20 ministerial statements. Particularly the following B20 joint recommendations on WTO reform were not at all incorporated or reiterated only in very general terms: on the rule-making function and improved multi-stakeholder consultation; those on strengthening international rules, through safeguarding a level playing field, protection of intellectual property, expanding market access for goods and services; and those on negotiating comprehensive and high-quality WTO-conformant free trade agreements. B20 Germany regrets that the G20 were not able to reflect the B20 proposals pertaining to trade and investment to a high and satisfactory extent.
Digital technology and AI are the future of society; climate change needs to be tackled at the local, national, and international levels as soon as possible; and societies should promote health, wellness, and quality infrastructure. However, certain policy areas have recently proved to be more contentious and divisive, and it is important in future B20/G20 processes to focus on and seek further unity on trade and investment. Only through solid collaboration in these multilateral fora can the B20/G20 countries properly attack global challenges across a myriad of policy Areas.