On October 23-24, 2013 Russia's G20 Presidency hosted its concluding Sherpas' Meeting in Moscow. Two months since the St.Petersburg Leaders' Summit, the G20 Sherpas met to review the latest progress of the G20 work streams, give an assessment of the outcomes of the Russian Presidency, discuss possible ways to further enhance the G20's efficiency, and take their first glance at the agenda and priorities of the forthcoming Australian Presidency. The meeting was chaired by Svetlana Lukash, who stepped in as Acting Russia's G20 Sherpa.
On the first day of the meeting Sherpas covered a broad range of issues of both the Finance and Sherpas' tracks of the G20 agenda. Opening the meeting, Ms. Lukash encouraged the participants while discussing the recent developments of and prospective challenges for the G20's agenda also to share visions on next steps that should be taken by the G20.
Taking part in the meeting in her new capacity of First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia, responsible, among other things, for the G20 affairs, Ksenia Yudaeva briefed sherpas on the results of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors' Meeting held in Washington D.C. on October 10-11, 2013. Ms. Yudaeva reported that the G20 finance authorities gave high evaluation of the accomplishments made during Russia's Presidency year, and shared a common understanding of the necessity to reach a practical delivery in 2014 on the commitments of the St.Petersburg Action Plan. "We have committed to implementation of ambitious and targeted reforms designed to ensure fiscal sustainability, boost investment, increase productivity and labour force participation, and address the issues of development", Ms. Yudaeva reminded. She further continued with noting that there is much to do in reshaping the G20 agenda for structural reforms.
Another ambitious task for the G20 in 2014, according to Ms. Yudaeva, will pertain to dispelling the concerns about necessary technical arrangements and substantial aspects of integrating elements from different G20's work streams into comprehensive growth strategies, provisioned to be developed by the St.Petersburg Action Plan. Successful implementation of this commitment will to a great extent depend on how the Australian Presidency decides to promote this issue in the G20 next year and what substantial amendments to the G20 agenda it will accordingly bring, Ms. Yudaeva commented. In conclusion, Ms. Yudaeva reassured that the issues of strengthening public debt management, completing the IMF's 2010 Quota and Governance reform, upgrading international taxation rules to ensure their fairness and integrity, and financial regulation would remain high on the Finance Track agenda.
In a follow-up discussion sherpas exchanged views on recent developments in the global economy and future trajectory of the G20's work. It was emphasized that very practical commitments fixed in the St.Petersburg Leaders' Summit final documents must be implemented in a timely and responsible manner, so as to exit from the period of weak growth that is currently experienced by the global economy. The challenges of the moment and limited fiscal space require shifting the quality of growth for it to be driven by improved business activity and increased investment rather than non-conventional monetary policy implemented by governments, as agreed by the G20 Sherpas. Elaborating comprehensive and coordinated growth strategies by the G20 countries, based largely on boosted investment, but at the same time going far beyond the investment agenda, holds the key to this.
On the non-finance issues, the participants had an in-depth discussion of the 2013 deliverables and next steps in the areas of trade, development, employment, energy sustainability, and anti-corruption.
The discussion on trade was dominated by the idea of the necessity to comply with and closely monitor the implementation of the standstill commitment on protectionism extended at the St.Petersburg Leaders' Summit until end-2016, and by the expectations from the forthcoming December WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali. It was stressed that failure to deliver practical results to move forward with the Doha Development Agenda would also mean the failure of the G20 as the main contributor to the Doha Round progress. At the same time the importance of shaping a longer-term international trade agenda and identifying the G20's role in it was also addressed in numerous interventions by sherpas. The core of the future trade agenda will be rethinking international trade as the global growth factor and of the emerging market and developing economies' positioning in the global value chains, along with the so-called 'next generation' trade issues, as reaffirmed at the meeting.
On the issue of development, Ms. Lukash reminded that in accordance with the St.Petersburg Development Outlook the future actions and agenda of the G20 in the sphere of development must be guided by the outcome-focused long-term overarching objectives of quality jobs and investment, trust and transparency, sustainability and resilience, and social inclusiveness. These four overarching objectives will act as a lens through which progress in the areas of food security, financial inclusion, developing infrastructure and human capital, and domestic resource mobilization will be assessed. Progress in these fields requires particular attention to the linkages between the Sherpas and Finance tracks and strengthening the Development Working Group coordination with other relevant G20 work streams, Ms. Lukash added. In addition, Sherpas also agreed that substantial effort will be further demanded from the G20 to assist the UN in elaborating post-2015 Development Agenda.
Capability of the G20 to gain momentum from integrated approach will also be crucial for the progress in implementing the employment-related commitments assumed by the G20 Leaders in St.Petersburg, as commonly agreed at the meeting. "Some countries have already started to apply integrated approach to national policies for growth and employment (macro, financial, fiscal, education, skills development, innovation, social protection) when elaborating their employment plans and sets of action", Ms. Lukash mentioned. The G20 Sherpas, in response, commended the intensive labour-finance interaction approach promoted by Russia in 2013 and expressed willingness to proceed further with the employment agenda in the same vein. Likewise, sherpas noted the importance of continuing to work on the issues of labour activation of the vulnerable groups, recognizing them as, potentially, one of the new sources of global growth. The way forward in this regard, as highlighted in some sherpas' remarks, could be singling out certain vulnerable groups, e.g. women or youth, and defining policies that can help activate these specific groups.
On the energy sustainability agenda, sherpas discussed the results achieved in 2013 in its major domains, namely, implementation of the Global Marine Environment Protection Initiative, elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, enhancing the transparency of energy and commodity markets, promoting investment in energy infrastructure, and climate financing. Sherpas shared a common understanding that currently undertaken work would lead to enhanced overall global energy security, and better predictability and decreased volatility of the energy and commodity markets in particular. Moreover, progress in the energy sustainability sphere has an important role to play in fulfilling the political commitment assumed by the Leaders to lower the negative impact of the energy sector and related industries onto the environment.
Finally, on the issue of anti-corruption, Sherpas reviewed progress on the implementation of the 2013-2014 G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan and the initiatives launched in 2013 (denial of entry issues, identification of economic sectors most vulnerable to corruption, beneficial ownership issues, tackling corruption in sports and selling state-owned property, educational issues and exchange of anti-corruption best practices), stressing the importance of timely and accurate fulfillment of the current Action Plan, as well as of other commitments fixed in the St.Petersburg Leaders' Summit final documents.
On the second day the discussion continued with exchanging ideas on possible ways to enhance the G20's working practices. Sherpas discussed the key findings and recommendations of the G20 Seminar on strengthening the G20 working process organized earlier in October jointly by Russia and Australia, and shared a number of additional points on enhancing cooperation between the Sherpas and Finance tracks and work strands, building the Troika mechanism capacity in terms of managing and steering the working process, more efficient engagement of international organizations and outreach partners into the G20 working process, framing and prosecuting the agenda over a typical year, as well as additional technical arrangements needed to be made for a more productive work of the forum.
In conclusion, the Australian G20 Sherpa Heather Smith made a presentation of the concept of Australia's Presidency in 2014. Ms. Smith informed the participants of Australia's intention to ensure continuity of the G20's work, and resolve to deliver tangible results in implementing the St.Petersburg Leaders' Summit commitments. The focus of the 2014 G20 Presidency will lie in the sphere of finding strategies to lift growth, Ms. Smith continued, so that the global economy could get out of the low-gear growth as soon as possible. For this purpose, Australia identifies as its Presidency's main substantial priorities the issues of empowering the private sectors to contribute to growth, and building resilience in the global economy. Additionally, Australia expressed readiness to do its utmost so that the G20 could remain the world's premier forum for economic cooperation, and the steering group leading the world amidst transformation.