18 December 2018
The major outcome the G20 Leaders’ Meeting in Buenos Aires (30 Nov – 1 Dec) is the very existence of a final declaration (“Building consensus for fair and sustainable development”). Considering trade tensions and disagreements on the climate agenda between G20 countries as well as failures at other meetings this year (G7 Summit & OECD Ministerial), consensus was not guaranteed.
The agreed text captures the main priorities of the Argentinian presidency – Future of Work (FoW), Infrastructure for Development, and Sustainable Food Future. Yet it offers minimal commitments on multilateralism and appears out of touch with economic developments when claiming “strong global growth” prospects, while signs of a sharp slowdown are accumulating. The Leaders did not decide on any action to deliver past commitments to reduce income inequality.
The G20 Declaration includes a commitment to frame ongoing policy discussions on the Future of Work with social dialogue principles and with specific commitments on skills and safety nets, in line with the G20 Employment Ministerial in September. However, G20 Leaders also endorse a separate roadmap on FoW by the G20 Finance Ministers (called “Menu of policy options”) that is less ambitious in scope and ignores social partners. A two-track approach to FoW would undermine policy coherence.
Through the years, the economic policy coordination function of the G20 has lost steam. Rather, the forum is increasingly focussing on longer-term structural reform. While inclusive growth remains the aspiration, the Action Plan adopted in Buenos Aires tilts toward a business competitiveness agenda, with little consideration for past commitments on income inequality and labour income share.
On infrastructure, the G20 approach continues focussing excessive, if not exclusive, attention on private finance and on Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) picturing infrastructure as an asset class (i.e., “securitisation” of infrastructure to attract financiers and asset managers) rather than as a public good (public procurement, public service).