Premier Think Tanks of the World Convened to Discuss Today and Future of the G20

19/06/2015

Over 60 people from 19 countries joined the Think 20 workshop in Izmir and Bodrum on June 13-15.

Izmir, Turkey Over 60 people from prominent think-tanks, research institutions, and international organizations from across the globe attended the Think20 Turkey workshop last week. The event drove a large crowd from 19 countries – G20 states, as well as non-member countries. This year, T20 Turkey has already hosted a dozen events locally and globally – the most recent ones in Berlin and Ottawa in May. The Izmir workshop has been the largest gathering this year. It marked the zenith of T20 Turkey deliberations, and reflected on the numerous discussions among experts to produce succinct ideas to help the G20 deliver concrete and sustainable policy measures.

Discussions in Izmir were organized around five current topics – Infrastructure, Financial Stability & Reform, Development, Trade & Investment, Growth and Jobs, and two future agenda items – Technology & Innovation and Internet Governance. The two-day workshop in Izmir continued in Bodrum where participants met Turkey’s G20 Sherpa Ayse Sinirlioglu and hold a press-conference.

Izmir gave a very warm welcome to the participants; everyone appreciated TEPAV’s choice of the venue. The event was held at the historical building of the İzmir Commodity Exchange which is going to celebrate its 125 anniversary next year. This is truly a superb place to exchange ideas. The participants convened at the cotton trading floor where since early 19th century dealers have been getting together to negotiate the price on their cotton stock and seal deals. İlhan Zincirlioğlu, vice-president of the Izmir Commodity Exchange, Murat Ozgoren, director of DEPARK at Dokuz Eylül University, and Tu Yonghong, professor at the Renmin University, China –the co-host of the event—delivered the opening remarks.

Guven Sak, Managing Director of TEPAV, launched the discussion by summarizing the arguments the T20 had discussed on the seven topics mentioned above, and set a good working tone for the two days ahead. Mr Sak started with a summary of selected arguments and recommendations developed until then, to show the big picture and help navigate through the long list of ideas. It was no mere chance that the T20 gathered mid-June for the stocktaking. Around the same time G20 Sherpas, finance and central bank deputies were meeting in Bodrum to start thinking through the forthcoming G20 communique. The T20, while working to produce ideas for the G20 for this year, and the next year of China’s presidency, needed to take a step back and short-list the most critical and implementable recommendations.

During the first day, four sessions where held on Infrastructure, Financial Stability & Reform, Development, and Trade & Investment. Session were moderated by distinguished professionals – Staci Warden from the Milken Institute, Malcolm Knight from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Amar Bhattacharya from the Brookings Institution, and Simon J. Evenett from the University of St. Gallen-Swiss Institute for International Economics and Applied Economic Research. They deliberately asked provocative questions and guided the discussion towards conformity of ideas. Interest in many issues like infrastructure and financial reform had been gaining momentum, but remained highly contested with little room for breakthrough unconventional answers.

T20 discussions this year have unfolded more at the operational level, and G20 Turkey overall has focused on the operational agenda as well. New institutions and hot issues like the World SME Forum, development of infrastructure as an asset class, and improving financial regulations got more attention, while transformational issues like export incentives or technology transfers revealed the divergence of interests and positions. It was proposed that the T20 move forward with a joint research for creative ideas in both operational and transformational issues.

The second day was highlighted by opening remarks by Pascal Lamy, former WTO Director-General. “The T20 should think more out of the box than within. The T20, a forum for think-tanks of the G20, should help the G20 move beyond economics,” Mr Lamy said. The participants picked up this motto and many referred to the out-of-the-box thinking approach later during the sessions. The motto grew beyond a catchphrase, and members discussed what the T20 can do to bring in novel and holistic perspectives to the G20 agenda. For instance, the T20 can bring in ideas from not just economics, but a wider array of social sciences, humanities, and other fields. Mr Lamy noted that while there was a lot of overlap between the T20 and other engagement groups, such as the WB, IMF, and WTO, the T20 should not replicate their agenda, rather create its own purpose.

Following Pascal Lamy’s illuminative reflections on the T20’s purpose, the participants continued with the discussion targeting the future agenda – technology and innovation, and Internet governance. Sessions were moderated by well-known experts: Tobias Schmidt from ETH Zurich, Ussal Sahbaz and Feride Inan from TEPAV, and Bill Graham from the Centre for International Governance. The members deliberated whether the G20/T20 is an appropriate platform to address these issues.

Much of the innovation agenda was discussed at the recent event in Berlin, and the T20 expanded on it in Izmir. Questions were more focused. It was proposed to look closer at the policy domains related to innovation systems across countries to make the policies consistent. Another idea discussed was how to do better benchmarking of innovative policy approaches. The issue of funding of fundamental research was picked up in the discussion: while tech innovation does drive growth, bottlenecks in funding of research with no immediate demand on the market exist, and this could lead to undesired consequences in the not so distant future.

While some experts noted that internet governance is a highly debated issue, and hence should not be on the G20 agenda, others recognized that things like digital economy and Internet per se have huge economic implications and should be added to each G20 issue. Internet governance is rightly an agenda topic for the future discussion, as Internet will remain a key infrastructure of the modern economy, and the society will keep developing norms, rules and procedures to govern its use.

The two-day workshop concluded with a tour to Ephesus and the House of Virgin Mary; and the participants departed to Bodrum.

On the third day, the proceedings of the workshop were conveyed to Turkey’s G20 Sherpa Ms Ayse Sinirlioglu in Bodrum, right before the third meeting of G20 Sherpas under Turkish Presidency. The T20 network members also had a fruitful interaction with the members of the foreign press, from India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mexico and France, who came to Bodrum for the G20 Sherpas meeting.

Workshop Programme

Workshop Participants

TEPAV Presentation, 13 June

TEPAV Presentation, 14 June