On 5 and 6 April 2018, heads of the business federations of the G7 members, along with other business leaders, met in Quebec City.
This year’s B7 Summit took place against the backdrop of a global environment of uncertainty. Rising protectionism, the growing divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, and the rising fear of technology’s potential to displace workers from their jobs are all placing an increasing strain on the global economy and its institutions. Delegates recognised that we are at a crucial juncture if we want to ensure that our collective economies continue to enjoy the type of growth the previous generation experienced. The B7 widely acknowledged that the role of business goes well beyond purely being an economic agent; it includes ensuring the benefits of growth are widely felt by our populations and that growth occurs in a sustainable manner.
To achieve this objective, the B7 focused this year on three themes: generating inclusive growth, improving resource efficiency and scaling up small business. Participants collectively agreed on 18 recommendations for the G7 across these three areas.
The B7 had a comprehensive discussion on the breadth of issues under inclusive growth, which includes economic growth based on equity, equality of opportunity, and the right to protection during market and employment transitions. Vital to the achievement of this goal is having economic policies that stimulate productivity. The B7 feels strongly that it is key for the G7 to deliver this through a rules-based international trading system. At this stage – perhaps more than at any other point – the architecture governing our trade system is under strain. The G7 must maintain its support for the World Trade Organization and its dispute settlement mechanism. Governments also need to work together to address steel and aluminium excess capacity and ensure a level playing field globally.
Together, we must also embrace the digital age. The shift to an increasingly digital economy presents transformative opportunities. However, these technologies, and the transition to them, will need to be harnessed if we are to ensure the benefits are widely enjoyed. This means getting the regulatory framework right on key issues such as the free flow of data without unjustified data localisation, or the forced transfer of source code. But it also means recognising that we need a strong cybersecurity framework to ensure confidence and stability. Additionally, people need to be placed at the centre of the transition to the digital age. This means deploying disruptive technologies while also creating and supporting retraining opportunities for workers.
The need for inclusive growth also extends to the scaling up of small businesses to help them thrive in the global economy. The capacity challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make the issues of tax and regulatory efficiency significantly more acute. This means that for these businesses to thrive, governments must ensure that policies do not hinder SMEs’ ability to grow and innovate. This includes assisting them with the adoption of digital technologies and making public procurement opportunities more accessible. SMEs also face particular challenges when they look to grow beyond their borders and access international opportunities. G7 governments can address this issue by providing effective on-the-ground assistance and in-market expertise.
Finally, it is critical that our resources be extracted and used efficiently and sustainably. Both the public and private sectors must partner to deliver research and development strategies that ensure close coordination of public funds and private capital. This collaboration between the two sectors needs to be complemented by market-based mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that reflect national circumstances and avoid distortions in the marketplace that discourage private-sector investment. Consequently, involving the private sector in domestic and international policymaking is essential. In the international context, trade and resource efficiency need to work together. The spread of affordable and efficient technologies through the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers will facilitate environmentally sustainable economies.
Despite the plethora of challenges ahead, the B7 federations remain optimistic that at this critical juncture there are still important opportunities ahead. However, the B7 and G7 must work together with our citizens and other groups to deliver on these ambitious goals. As private-sector leaders, we look forward to working with the Canadian presidency to deliver a successful, and impactful, G7 in 2018.