The first G20 summit at the level of heads of state and government took place in 2008. At that time, the task was to find joint answers to the international financial crisis in order to stabilise the financial markets and the global economy. Today, we can say that the G20 has proven its worth as a crisis-management instrument. We have met 12 times during the 10 years since the first summit. In 2017, I had the honour of welcoming my colleagues from the leading industrialised and emerging-market countries to the G20 summit in Hamburg.
From the outset, the G20 has demonstrated that it has a crucial role to play in global economic and financial governance. It has long since established itself as the most important forum for international economic cooperation. This is illustrated not least by the development of effective financial market regulation and our commitment to refrain from raising new barriers to investment or trade, specifically the standstill agreement. These two elements were key prerequisites for ensuring that the global economy got back on the growth track following the turbulence on the markets triggered by the financial crisis.
However, there is no guarantee that the global economic recovery will continue. New risks arise not least due to the tensions and conflicts in international trade relations and unilateral measures taken without prior consultation. The desire for isolation reflects the doubts many people have about the benefits of globalisation. They wonder whether the opportunities for growth and prosperity are fairly distributed.
In addition, there is a wide range of global challenges which may bring about considerable economic upheaval. Geopolitical conflicts and international terrorism, climate change and pandemics, displacement and migration, as well as the profound impact of advances in digital technology on employment and labour markets – we dedicated significant energy to these and other issues during Germany’s G20 presidency last year. Argentina’s G20 presidency has carried on from there and has focused on the future of work, infrastructure for development and a sustainable food future.
All of these are complex issues to which there are no easy answers. What is more, they are global issues that can only be resolved through international cooperation. The world’s economies are interconnected in many different ways, which is why unilateral approaches are unlikely to result in durable success. It was therefore very important to me that last year’s G20 summit in Hamburg sent a clear message: we can achieve more together than by acting alone.
This commitment to multilateral cooperation is reflected in many of the results we achieved in Hamburg. We expressed our support for a rules-based international trading system with a strong and effective World Trade Organization (WTO). We spoke out against protectionism and in favour of open markets and advocated the elimination of excess capacity, which distorts competition, particularly in the steel sector. With the exception of the United States, the G20 members reaffirmed the irreversibility of the Paris Agreement and its implementation. The G20 stood united behind the 2030 Agenda to promote global sustainable development, established a G20 partnership with Africa and launched a global research initiative in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Not least, the G20 committed to improving women’s economic empowerment.
The fact that the range of issues has grown clearly shows that the G20 has evolved over the past 10 years. However, it is also clear that the decisions taken by the G20 are not enough. The global challenges are still there, and in some cases they have grown in the past few years.
At the Buenos Aires Summit, therefore, the G20’s continued task is to show the world that we can find solutions to the current challenges of our time by working together for the benefit of all. This is the key benchmark if the G20 is to carry on living up to its role as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.
In Buenos Aires, I will thus advocate that we keep working on the results achieved during the German G20 presidency and call for their implementation – from health to the digital transformation agenda. This also applies to issues on which I am expecting difficult discussions, for example on the fight against climate change and the commitment to the ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement. In addition, we should pay particular attention this year to ensuring that the international trading system is not eroded. We want to strengthen the WTO and make possible its further development. The G20 can provide crucial political momentum for this and develop a positive agenda.
Ten years after the first summit of the G20 leaders, the G20 can again make a key contribution towards stabilising the global economy, avoiding future crises as well as shaping globalisation in a way that benefits everyone by actively supporting this process.