A Summit of Significant, Selective Success: Prospects for the Brisbane G20

John Kirton



The Challenge

The ninth Group of Twenty (G20) summit, taking place in Brisbane, Australia on November 15- 16, 2014, is an unusually significant event. It comes with the unprecedented geopolitical drama and risks arising from Russia’s forceful annexation of Crimea, its subsequent military incursions in eastern Ukraine, and the question of whether President Putin will actually attend the summit and how he will be treated there if he does. It also faces a severe security threat from the brutal terrorism of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIL) now expanding through Syria and Iraq and the deadly Ebola epidemic devastating the lives and economic fortunes of West Africa and infecting Europe and the United States. G20 leaders further face the need to shape the global development and climate agenda, to give the needed impetus to the great multilateral summits taking place in 2015 to complete the old and launch the new Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to define a new legally binding climate change control regime.

At the same time, G20 leaders, confronting a slowing, struggling global economy, need to deliver the G20’s centrepiece promise for the Brisbane summit of raising growth 2% above trend over the following five years. They also have a formidable, carefully constructed full scale economic agenda, focused on the Australian host’s priorities of creating growth and jobs, stronger financial regulation, tax fairness, freer trade and infrastructure finance, along with anti-corruption, money laundering, and terrorist finance.

To deal with these tasks, Australia’s first G20 summit as host will be chaired by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, attending his first G20 summit, backed by just over a year’s experience as Australia’s leader and standing at a relatively low approval rating in the polls. He will be joined as a newcomer by Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, India’s Narendra Modi, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and Turkey’s Ahmet Davutoglu (who is due to host the 2015 summit), and the recent arrivals of China’s Xi Jinping, Korea’s Park Geun-hye and Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto. Coming with more experience are Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who hosted the previous G20 summit in St. Petersburg in September 2013, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, France’s François Hollande and the United Kingdom’s David Cameron, the US’s Barack Obama and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma. Arriving as G20 summit founders who have attended every one are Canada’s Stephen Harper, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner. At their side as fellow G20 members will be the two new leaders of the European Union, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank. Their task is to meet, build upon and exceed the growing performance of eight G8 summits held since their start in November 2008 amidst the global financial crisis erupting then...

A Summit of Significant, Selective Success: Prospects for the Brisbane G20

John Kirton is co-director of G20 Research Group, University of Toronto and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China (RDCY)