Mexico is thinking about its hosting of the 2012 G20 summit. The Ministry of Finance, the Sherpa office and other offices in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Agriculture are planning well in advance to help ensure a successful summit next June. Mexico’s scope for sculpting the agenda and preparatory process will be influenced by developments in the current economic turmoil — the G20’s priority will be action to avert a downturn scenario. Economic and financial issues may monopolize attention, sidelining non-financial issues for the moment.
Nonetheless, Mexicans are quietly gathering ideas and launching discrete “trial balloons.” In May, President Felipe Calderon had a meeting with the celebrity Bono, where they discussed potential G20 agenda items, including corruption, improving healthcare and boosting agriculture (ONE, 2001). In June, President Calderon and Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari discussed the current G20 agenda and the Mexican summit with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) — the topic was the prospects for putting trade on the agenda (ICC, 2011). Following Mexico’s supportive role at Seoul in 2010, where it supported Korea’s initiative on development and a commitment to poverty eradication, Ambassador Martha Ortiz de Rosas Gomez was quoted as saying: “We would like to see more elements aimed at helping not just the countries with the lowest incomes, but also emerging economies that have large poor populations…Within the G20 there are still deprived regions and vulnerable populations that need to overcome considerable challenges. The G20 should be one of the mechanisms to overcome them” (Young-jin, 2010).
Since the G20 is a process, where each summit builds on the work of its predecessor, Mexico is constrained by the forthcoming Cannes summit, and must follow up the outcomes and commitments made this November. Being the host of the G20 is beginning to resemble the difficulty of a captain steering a supertanker. In exercising the chair’s traditional prerogative to add new issues (Korea added development; France added commodity price volatility), Mexico must restrain its ambition to widen the agenda, remembering that the G20 is not the “committee to save the world” (Price, 2011). While it should not dilute the G20 focus by adding heavyweight issues, Mexico may kill two birds with one stone by reinforcing action on the existing agenda while simultaneously pursuing Mexican priorities. A good example is to craft the flow of work on existing agenda items, building on G20 work to date on illicit financial flows, tax havens, anti-corruption and development.
If the global financial situation is calmed, Mexico may put financial integrity for development at the heart of the 2012 G20. This would involve, for example, a G20 agreement on the automatic exchange of tax information, supplanting the largely ineffective “on request” exchange of information embodied in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreements (Cobham, 2011). This could include requiring banks to report all interest payments to non-residents, as proposed by the US Treasury (Tax Justice Network, 2011). It is in every G20 member’s interest to counter tax abuse and arrest illicit flows, which deprive governments of revenues needed to promote effective, clean administrations.
Mexico (like Australia, Canada, Korea and Turkey) is aware that the stakes are high if the G20 does not succeed — Mexico will likely not be included in the successor arrangement. Mexico may therefore attempt to institutionalize an effective preparatory process to ensure the success of the G20 during 2012. This entails deflecting pressure to add agenda items by devising ingenious “off-ramps” for issues like climate change — proposing terms of reference and inviting future reports to subsequent G20 summits from international institutions, groups of ministers and experts. Catalyzing the appropriate research and policy analysis efforts can be the most effective way to attack complex global deadlocks.
Encouraging emerging countries to assume the burdens of leadership will be an art. President Sarkozy pronounced that “with rights, come duties and responsibilities” (Sarkozy, 2010). Mexico must deal with Chinese reticence to assume leadership. Consistent with former leader Deng Xiaping’s strategy of “keeping a low profile,” China appears unwilling to accept more international responsibility. Chinese interlocutors insist it is still a developing country and it will take “the strenuous efforts of several and even a dozen generations before China can truly achieve modernization.” Mexico is better placed than the US or European countries to overcome Chinese reticence to play a major role in international affairs. Perhaps a way forward will be to locate new institutions in Beijing or to ask China to chair future working groups commissioned by the G20.
Aside from containing the agenda, managing outreach and engaging China, India and Brazil, Mexico must preserve the value of the G20 in building trust and good relations among leaders. The imperative is to enable the leaders’ meeting to be informal and unscripted. Mexico must square the circle of dealing with complex, highly technical problems while maintaining a “fireside chat” degree of intimacy. The secret will be in the preparation of the meeting, so that leaders find the G20 worthwhile and a pleasant experience.
Last year, Mexico picked up the pieces of the fractured negotiations on climate change, very skillfully hosted COP 16 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) and set the stage for future progress. The G20 appears to be in good hands for 2012.
Cobham, Alex (2011). “Mexico 2012: A G20 for Financial Integrity?” The Task Force on Financial Integrity & Economic Development Blog. February 10. Available at: www.financialtaskforce.org/2011/02/10/mexico-2012-a-g20-for-financial-integrity/.
ICC (2011). “G20 Executive Brief.” No. 2. June 22. Available at: http://www.iccwbo.org/uploadedFiles/G20_newsletter_No2.pdf.
Jiechi, Yang (2010). “A Changing China in a Changing World.” Address at the Munich Security Conference, February 5, Munich.
ONE (2011). Bono meets President Calderon of Mexico.” Press release. May 12, 2011. Available at: www.one.org/c/us/pressrelease/3745/.
Price, Daniel (2011). “G20 version 2.0 will appease the sceptics.” The Financial Times. March 31. Available at: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/c0dea9aa-5bc4-11e0-b8e7-00144feab49a.html#axzz1WhmqTNM4.
Sarkozy, Nicolas (2010). Speech given at 18th Ambassador’s Conference, August 25, Elysée Palace, Paris.
Tax Justice Network (2011). “The U.S. proposes transparency on foreign money.” January 11. Available at: http://taxjustice.blogspot.com/2011/01/us-proposes-transparency-on-foreign.html.
Young-jin, Kim (2010). “Mexico seeking to lead G20 development issues.” Korea Times. September 26. Available at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2010/10/299_73537.html.