A multilateral agenda for a fairer, more sustainable future
G20 Summit

A multilateral agenda for a fairer, more sustainable future

Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister, Spain


Osaka will be the 14th G20 summit since the group started meeting at the leaders’ level in 2008. As a country strongly committed to multilateralism and international cooperation to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, Spain has actively participated in each of those summits.

From reinforcing international financial institutions to strengthening international tax cooperation or addressing financial sector reform, the achievements of the G20 since the Washington Summit are impressive. Yet the rise of protectionism and unilateralism jeopardise these achievements and call into question the multilateral system as a whole – and the G20’s role as a platform for economic cooperation for the world’s largest economies.

The best way of defending multilateralism is by showing it can deliver concrete and effective results for our citizens. We need multilateralism that works – that can be perceived by our citizens as a useful tool to solve concrete challenges.

What does this mean in practice as we meet in Osaka? I think our citizens are expecting three main things from us G20 leaders: a clear message of confidence in the global economy, a commitment to a renewed social contract to ensure nobody is left behind and our determination to do what is needed to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.

Ten years ago, the G20 played a key role in fighting the worst economic crisis in nearly a century. We cannot afford to forget the lessons learnt at such heavy cost. Today, we need to act collectively to ensure that economic growth continues to be strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive, as we reiterate year after year in our communiqués.

In this context, the ongoing trade tensions are a major source of concern for many companies, workers and citizens. The good news is that resolving these tensions is entirely in our hands. The Osaka Summit is an excellent opportunity to send a strong message of confidence in the ability of multilateral frameworks to tackle the root causes of these tensions and find a way forward.

Spain is firmly committed to the rules-based multilateral system with the World Trade Organization at its centre. Free and fair trade can be a powerful engine of economic growth and prosperity. G20 countries represent around 80% of global trade. Last year in Buenos Aires, we expressed our support for reforming the WTO to adapt its functioning to the realities of the 21st century, and to ensure that the benefits of trade can be broadly shared across and within countries. It is now time for the G20 to show firm leadership and give strong political momentum to this process.

But growth alone is not enough. Ten years after the global economic crisis, and while the global economy continues to grow, it is time to tackle inequalities and social exclusion. It is those inequalities and a perception of unfairness that weaken the trust of citizens in governments and ultimately breed nationalism, populism and extremism. Our role as leaders is to act, domestically and multilaterally, to break that vicious circle by addressing the root causes of inequalities and develop a new social contract capable of regaining the trust of citizens.

This means strengthening and updating our social protection systems, lifelong learning and labour institutions to equip workers, firms and citizens to maximise the benefits of the digital transformation.

It also means tackling the challenges of ageing in countries such as Spain, which has the second longest life expectancy in the world.

An inclusiveness agenda should also place gender equality at the centre of public policy, helping women realise their full potential. There is strong evidence that shows the immense benefits when women increase their participation in the labour markets or economic life in general. We should thus focus our efforts on bridging gender gaps regarding access to quality jobs, equal pay, unpaid work or leadership positions in the public and private sectors.

A new social contract also calls for adapting our international taxation frameworks and domestic tax laws to level the playing field, root out all tax havens and ensure everybody pays their fair share.

It also means working on comprehensive responses to migration and forced displacement based on the principles of international cooperation, partnership and solidarity.

Last but not least, we need to listen to our younger generations, who increasingly take to the streets to demand a green new deal with concrete solutions, here and now, against the biggest threat to humankind.

G20 members are not just the largest economies in the world, but also the major sources of greenhouse emissions. As scientists tell us, there is very little time left to act. So it is absolutely urgent that we lead the world by stepping up the ambition in implementing the Paris Agreement, without forgetting the need to protect biodiversity or eliminate plastic waste from our oceans.

These messages of confidence, fairness and sustainability have been at the core of my government’s agenda since I took office a year ago. Building on the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Spain continues to grow and create jobs, while enhancing the competitiveness of our economy, fostering social cohesion and laying the foundations for a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

These objectives should also inspire our discussions in Osaka as we continue to work together as G20 leaders to secure a fairer, more sustainable future for all.