The 'Group of 20', or the G20, is an informal forum made up of the heads of state and government from the United States, Japan, China, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the EU, Brazil, Canada, India, Russia, Australia, Mexico, Korea, Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and South Africa. The presidency is responsible for all of the organisation of the summit and also determines the agenda. This year (2016), the G20 presidency is being held by China.
The group's aim is to strengthen the international financial system and to develop solutions to global challenges. The following international organisations are regularly involved in the summits and work of the G20: International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), Financial Stability Board (FSB), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Labour Organization (ILO) and United Nations (UN).
In 2017, Germany holds the G20 Presidency, and will be succeeded by Argentina in 2018.
German Presidency of the G20 in 2017
The G20 presidency is responsible for all of the organisation of the summit and also determines the agenda. Germany took over the G20 Presidency on . The Economic Affairs Ministry is setting the course during the Presidency for more inclusive growth which, through greater social participation, strengthens social cohesion. The focus here is on public investment in education and infrastructure, and a better environment for private-sector investment.
Digitisation is the key driving force for economic growth. For this reason, the Economic Affairs Ministry held the first G20 Digital Ministers Meeting on 6-7 April 2017 to discuss "Digitalisation: Policies for a Digital Future”. In the run-up to this meeting of the G20 Digital Ministers, the OECD joined with the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) to host a conference entitled ‘Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20’ in Berlin on 12 January 2017. The primary outcomes from the conference fed into the discussions between the G20 Digital Ministers. The ministerial declaration and a joint roadmap with 11 central fields of action for global digital policy can be found here.
Germany is building upon the achievements of previous presidencies to ensure continuity of the work undertaken by the G20. Only if the measures adopted are implemented and if compliance with them is monitored will the G20 be able to achieve lasting progress. The agenda is focused on three key objectives: ensuring stability, becoming better-prepared for the future, and assuming responsibility.
G20 priorities for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy
Key topics for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy are digitalisation, energy, trade and investments.
Digitisation offers major opportunities for business and society. If we want to make full use of these opportunities, we need a joint, international framework for action. Digitalisation is driving globalisation by means of social networks, digital commerce and digital platforms. In an economy that is increasingly driven by platforms, we need common rules and standards that apply around the globe – from technical standards, to grid expansion, through to competition and regulatory issues. This is why the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has taken the initiative to host the first ever G20 Digital Ministers' Meeting in April 2017 that will focus on ‘Digitalisation: Policies for a digital future'.
A secure, economically viable and climate-neutral energy supply that is accessible to all people is the fundamental basis for economic growth and prosperity and one of the central concerns of the G20. Under the Chinese presidency, the G20 countries agreed an ambitious agenda for the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. This will only prove possible if energy and climate policy are closely interlinked and designed to work together. The energy sector accounts for a significant share of all CO2 emissions. Under the German presidency, discussions will be held on how ambitious energy reforms can be launched in the G20 countries and beyond to build energy systems that are secure, economically efficient and climate-friendly, and on what type of investment is needed for this.
Trade and Investment
Trade and investment are key drivers of growth. The work of the Trade and Investment Working Group under the German presidency will therefore also focus on supporting the multilateral trading system. The goal is to build open markets, a reliable policy environment and transparency in order to promote cross-border investment and growth. The work of the G20 is to be deepened with a view to facilitating and maintaining investment. A further priority will be placed on the field of digital trade, with an emphasis on the improvement of statistical data, on the role of the WTO, and on the development dimension. In addition, high standards of protection for labour will be on the agenda.
2016 G20 summit
The 2016 G20 summit under the Chinese presidency took place in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou on 4-5 September. It was entitled: “Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy”. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy played a leading part during discussions on trade and investment, digital economy, the new industrial revolution and innovation and energy. The official Communiqué of the summit can be found .
Importance of the G20
The G20 has developed into the leading format for intergovernmental cooperation in the fields of fiscal and economic policy. Thanks to its wide membership, the group is capable of actively driving forward efforts to develop solutions to global problems and of adopting global measures. The G20 countries represent approx. two-thirds of the world’s population, account for around four-fifths of the world’s GDP (in purchasing power parity) and of world trade, and provide three-quarters of the world’s development aid.
The G20 has been meeting at the level of finance ministers and central bank governors since 1998. The original aim of this institutionalised dialogue was to foster international financial stability following the Asia crisis of 1997. Participants were selected based upon their level of involvement in the international financial system, and taking into account geographical balance and population size. Other ministerial meetings, such as those of the employment ministers, development ministers, agricultural ministers or trade ministers were convened as required. Following the financial and economic crisis, the meeting of the finance ministers and central bank governors was followed for the first time by the summit of the G20 heads of state and government. Both of these events took place in Washington D.C. in November 2008.
As in the G7 process, the “sherpas” play a central role here. These personal representatives of the heads of state and government are invited several times a year by the G20 presidency to attend working meetings to prepare and follow up on the summits. Further to this, the respective G20 presidency can convene working and expert meetings whenever it sees a need for these, in line with the agenda it has set. The sherpa for Germany (personal representative of the Federal Chancellor for the G7/G20) is Prof. Dr. Lars Hendrik Röller, the Federal Chancellor’s economic and financial policy adviser.