Noe van Hulst, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the OECD, Chair of the IEA Governing Board
How should we assess the German presidency of the G20? Despite a complicated political situation, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s team worked with their characteristic determination or Ausdauer to achieve concrete actions and advance their three aims of building resilience, improving sustainability and assuming responsibility. The Leaders’ Declaration, Shaping an interconnected world, rightly sends the message that “we can achieve more together than by acting alone”.
But while the presidency was a success, it was hardly a walk in the park. Obviously, there were difficult and profound discussions on trade and investment, but isn’t that what the G20 is for? Exactly when perspectives are diverging, there is an urgent need for open and frank talks in the G20, and in the OECD for that matter. Given that background it was even more important for the communiqué to state that “we commit to further strengthen G20 trade and investment co-operation”. As I wrote in my last post, to us it is critical that G20 countries remain committed to keep markets open and fight protectionism. At the same time, we must all do much more domestically to ensure that the benefits of trade and investment are shared more widely, and internationally to achieve a more level playing field.
With respect to the last point, the G20 calls for stronger action to tackle market-distorting subsidies and excess capacities in industrial sectors. The recently created Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity, facilitated by the OECD, is pressed to come up with concrete policy solutions by November 2017 “as a basis for tangible and swift policy action”. It’s time to deliver in this key area, and to set an example to follow for other industrial sectors with excess capacities.
As for levelling the global playing field and making supply chains more responsible and sustainable, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises held much of the limelight as an instrument for upholding high labour, environmental and human rights standards. Important elements like exercising due diligence, access to remedy and grievance mechanisms are extensively mentioned in the G20 communiqué. Another area the G20 continues good work on is international standards on tax transparency and implementing measures to tackle Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). This remains one of the most game-changing OECD contributions to the G20’s efforts to fix globalisation, with more to come in the future, for instance on the tax challenges raised by digitalisation.
On climate change, a lot has been said and written about the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But we should not forget that the US is continuing its work on clean energy (including renewables), as was recently reaffirmed in Beijing at the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) meeting, the Secretariat of which is housed at the IEA. Meanwhile, the other G20 countries reaffirmed their strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, so the global energy transition will keep moving forward.
All in all, the German presidency was in my view a success. Germany navigated some very difficult political waters with aplomb and achieved meaningful results. The OECD’s work and standards also received a deserved boost. As for the Netherlands, we were happy to be a “wild card” participant of this G20 and supporter of the German G20 presidency, and now look forward to supporting those of Argentina in 2018, Japan in 2019 and Saudi Arabia in 2020 in any way we can.
References and further reading:
Clean Energy Ministerial 8 (CEM8), 6–8 June 2017, Beijing, China, http://www.cleanenergyministerial.org/Events/CEM8
German G20 Presidency, https://www.g20.org/Webs/G20/EN/Home/home_node.html
Van Hulst, Noe (2017), “A new network for open economies and inclusive societies”, OECD Observer, http://oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/5884/