G20 Japan Leader’s Summit; Takeaways
The G20 Japan Leader’s Summit was a reminder of just how difficult consensus is in the current political climate when there is so much difference and conflict between G20 countries and pressure on leaders to deliver populist policies. 50% of G20 countries now have overtly protectionist governments and trade barriers are once again rising at an alarming rate – fourfold since 2015. In the grand scheme of things, tariff barriers remain low but the trend is upward and this doesn’t include discriminatory barriers to services trade, affecting 80% of the UK economy.
Underlying the political challenges are a host of complex policy issues; the rapid advancement of technology, changing consumer behaviour, growing inequalities, changing demographics, the need to de-carbonise economies and tackle climate change and a trade war between the two largest economies. None of these are easy issues to solve in the short term which is why we need G20 countries to show leadership and why we, as business community need to continue speaking up.
In the UK we are caught up in it too. No one wants to say it, but Brexit is, at its core, a populist movement with protectionist outcomes. Limits on the movement of labour, tightening up on controls of foreign mergers and acquisitions and, if the UK crash out of the EU in October, a return to hard borders. To the outside eye, this all looks distinctly like protectionism and populism albeit not with the inward-looking nationalist tones of other governments around the world.
Despite the challenges and distractions of bi-lateral meetings between G20 leaders and trips to North Korea, there was plenty in the final G20 Declaration to be positive about, especially in relation to making progress on digital trade and trade reform. Click here to see full press release and some highlights.