The Antalya G20 Summit has ended. The core mandate of the G20 is their economic cooperation and promoting strong, balanced and sustainable growth. However, as we have sometimes seen in previous summits, the focus of leaders and the media on Sunday and Monday was not on the work of finance ministers and others over the preceding year, but rather on the immediate crisis provoked by the terrorist attacks in Paris.
A short, strong and separate communique was issued on terrorism, setting out an intensification of earlier work to stop terrorist financing and strengthen cooperation more broadly. Some have speculated that this has moved the G20 closer to assuming a more geopolitical and security role. While this remains to be seen, events have certainly appeared to have led to a potential major shift in security cooperation.
The main Leaders’ Communique, on which there was little focus in Antalya, reflects the efforts on the broad G20 economic agenda over the last year. Whereas the Australian Presidency last year sought to provide a central focus on economic growth and drafted a short communique, this time the Turks sought to broaden the agenda and to be inclusive.
The result is a meandering communique lacking in focus and, often, specifics. It does reflect incremental progress on a number of issues, including sovereign debt restructuring, financial sector reform and responding to climate change. On the other hand, some of the language reflects committee drafting and is not clear (the silver economy or youth at risk unemployment), or has no place in a Leaders’ Communique – for example, welcoming the Milan "Exposition."
The core issue of strengthening economic growth reflected a steady-as-she-goes approach. There is no ambition and little recognition of the serious risks facing the global economy at this time (including Japan slipping back into recession and weakening growth in Europe from its already anaemic state). The call last month by the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde for a “policy upgrade” was ignored. Instead, we received verbiage but no action.
This unambiguous result already has eyes turning towards China, which will host the next G20 Summit. Curiosity and anticipation are running high. A further deterioration in global economic prospects could create a difficult and challenging year for China’s Presidency.