B20 chair Shuzo Sumi details the role of private sector business as the world transitions to Society 5.0, and the collaborative action governments must take to support it
Keidanren, Japan’s business federation, hosted the Business 20 Tokyo Summit on 14–15 March 2019. As chair of the B20, and representing Keidanren, I would like to introduce our basic view of the world economy, our vision for a future society and policy recommendations for the G20.
Where the world stands
Today, the world is changing quickly and dramatically in many spheres. Escalating trade conflicts and geopolitical tensions have brought downside risks, which we, the B20, are concerned will eventually lead to a slowdown in the steady expansion of the world economy. Anti-globalisation sentiments are also becoming widespread in quite a few G20 countries.
These developments pose serious challenges to existing global and domestic governance structures. To overcome these challenges in a steadfast manner, the rules-based, free, fair and open international economic order needs to be strengthened through enhanced policy coordination, updated rules and increased compliance. In parallel, each country should undertake the necessary structural reforms in a decisive manner.
Where to go
Furthermore, we should not overlook the enormous challenges that face us on a global scale. Governments should mobilise the appropriate policy tools to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
To this end, governments should encourage the adoption of digital technologies, while paying due attention to their economic and social impact, such as the Internet of Things, the 5G mobile communication system, Big Data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. This will lead us to the next stage of humankind, Society 5.0, which follows from the first stage of the Hunting Society, through the Agrarian Society, Industrial Society and then the Information Society. Against this backdrop, we set the overarching theme of the B20 Tokyo Summit as Society 5.0 for the Sustainable Development Goals.
Business plays a critical role in achieving the SDGs, which will change how we do business. In this process, the role of the B20 in G20 governance will further increase.
How to shape the future
We, the B20, developed joint recommendations in seven areas: the digital transformation, trade and investment, energy and the environment, quality infrastructure, the future of work, health and well-being, and integrity. Every topic is followed by the phrase ‘for all’ to show our commitment to ensure no one is left behind.
Digital transformation and trade and investment issues deserve to be prioritised, given present challenges. Regarding the digital transformation, because vast amounts of relevant trustworthy data must flow across borders to provide solutions for all, it is essential to promote the international interoperability of risk-based security and privacy protection standards across jurisdictions. In this regard, I have high expectations for the G20’s discussion on ‘data free flow with trust’, proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Davos last January.
As for trade and investment, in order to preserve and strengthen the rules-based, free, fair and international order, it is imperative to reform the World Trade Organization and ensure a level playing field so that businesses can pursue free and fair competition.
Contributions from business
We, the B20, do not merely ask political leaders to adopt appropriate policies and measures. We also take tangible action ourselves. In this regard, we developed the B20 Business Voluntary Action Plan, and declared our intention to implement various initiatives such as integrating the SDGs into corporate strategies. In addition, we gathered more than 80 examples of actions by individual companies throughout the world that demonstrate our commitment to Society 5.0 for the SDGs. A network of national business federations in the G20 members as well as international business federations have enabled the B20 to do such extensive work.
The G20 as a premier forum for international economic cooperation
Being a formal engagement group of the G20, the B20 has been given several opportunities to present our joint recommendations through the G20 process, such as at ministerial meetings and task force meetings. I myself was honoured to speak at the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in April.
Ten years after the global financial crisis, international cooperation is more vital than ever. The G20, as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, will play a more important role than ever before. We, the B20, are looking forward to witnessing the real outcomes from the G20 Osaka Summit.