The G-20 Summit extravaganza featuring leaders of the world’s major economies kicks off in Brisbane today. Australia, which usually impresses the world through staging spectacular events like the Olympics in Sydney, is revelling in the attention that it rarely gets as a vital strategic partner of the West in the Asia-Pacific. The Tony Abbott government is reportedly spending A$500 million for the two-day event in an effort to galvanise the G-20 as an institution. The group has lost a bit of its sheen in recent years.
The G-20 was set out as a finance ministers meeting in 1999 but was scaled up to summit level after the financial crisis in 2008. The group was seen as a more representative body than the then G-8 to tackle the world’s economic problems. It certainly played its part in tiding over the 2008 crisis but has struggled since to achieve a measure of policy coherence.
The interest of emerging economies in the grouping has arguably flagged as the G-20 has done little to address the asymmetries of power in the structure of global financial institutions. Critics argue that it now achieves very little purpose than reconvene the global power elite and give leaders a chance to catch up with counterparts.
Mr Abbott has, however, declared that the Summit will be more than just a “talkfest” and focus on steps to advance growth and job creation across the world. He announced in January that the Summit’s communiqué will be just three pages long, explaining how good intentions will translate into practice. The Summit aims to secure a formal agreement to increase global growth by two per cent over the next five years, which will entail the adoption of several policy measures by member nations.
Australia has also pushed for global tax avoidance, an issue likely to generate intense debate. India, on its part, is seeking an international framework for sharing information on tax evasion alongside rules to reduce the cost of wiring remittances. Mr Abbott, a colourful anti-immigration conservative, has already ensured that the Summit will not be a dull one. He has insisted that climate change will not be on the Summit’s agenda, saying that he is interested in growth and jobs now rather than focus on “what might happen in 16 years time”. Analysts differ and reckon that climate change is bound to be discussed following the landmark US-China deal on reducing emissions after 2030. The US has also declared that climate will be a part of the G-20 agenda. Brisbane’s outcomes will likely clinch the debate about the credibility of the G-20 as an institution.