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A Summit of Broad Substantial Success:
Prospects for the G20 Osaka Summit

John Kirton, G20 Research Group
June 27, 2019 (updated from June 23, 2019)

The 14th G20 summit, taking place in Osaka, Japan, on June 28–29, 2019, will be a highly significant event. It starts the second decade of G20 summitry, since the first was launched in Washington DC in November 2018. It is the first G20 summit hosted by Japan, the third most economically powerful country in the G20 and the world. It brings the G20 back to an expanding Asia at the emerging centre of the global economy, after the G20's successful summits at Hangzhou, China, in September 2016, Brisbane, Australia, in November 2014 and Seoul, Korea, in November 2010. It is hosted by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, a veteran of six G20 summits and host of the G7's successful Ise-Shima Summit in 2016. It takes place after an unusually short time of only seven months following the previous G20 summit, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 30–December 1, 2018. It comes as campaigning starts for the U.S. presidential election in 2020. It confronts the critical challenges of climate change, slowing global growth amid digitalization and aging populations, trade protectionism from the United Kingdom's prospective exit from the European Union, rising U.S.-China tensions and attacks on the World Trade Organization (WTO), fears of financial crises expanding across emerging economies, and concerns about the ability of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to cope.

The Osaka Summit marks the debut on the G20 and global stage of Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, and the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, who has chosen not to attend himself. Prime Minister Abe is joined by several other G20 veterans: Germany's Angela Merkel, who hosted in 2017, China's Xi Jinping, who hosted in 2016, Canada's Justin Trudeau, India's Narendra Modi, Turkey's Recip Tayyip Erdogan, who hosted in 2015, Russia's Vladimir Putin, who hosted in 2013, Argentina's Mauricio Macri, who hosted in 2018, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, scheduled to host in 2020, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council. The newer leaders are Korea's President Moon Jae-in, the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Theresa May, France's President Emmanuel Macron, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Donald Trump of the United States.

These leaders will build on the work of the G20's meetings of ministers responsible for agriculture in Niigata on May 11–12; finance with the central bank governors in Fukuoka on June 8–9; trade and the digital economy in Tsubuka, on June 8–9; energy transitions and the global environment for sustainable growth in Karuizawa, on June 15–16; and health and finance ministers who will meet together for the first time on the sidelines of the Osaka Summit on June 28. G20 leaders at Osaka will also guide the subsequent ministerial meetings for labour and employment in Matsuyama, on September 1–2; health in Okayama on October 19–20; foreign affairs in Nagoya on November 22–23; and tourism in Kutchan.

At Osaka the leaders will focus on Japan's theme of realizing and promoting a free, open, inclusive and sustainable "human-centred future society." Their priorities are free trade and innovation as engines for shared growth that reduces disparities, development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), quality infrastructure investment, international health, climate change, ocean plastic waste and resilience against natural disasters, institutions for the digital economy, and an aging society, including its implications for financial and social policies and financial inclusion.

Also included are safeguards for shared growth such as debt sustainability and transparency in low-income countries, global imbalances and market fragmentation in financial regulation and supervision. Technological innovation embraces international tax, financial innovation (including crypto-assets) and development implications. The standard security issues of money laundering, terrorist finance and proliferation finance round out the list.

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The Debate

In the lead-up to the Osaka Summit, there was a debate about how successful it would be and why it would succeed or fail.

The first school saw failure due to Trump skipping the summit. He dislikes international summits, had skipped last year's summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Asia, and prevented it from issuing a concluding communiqué (Harding 2019a). Trump also welcomed Abe in Washington in April, and became the first foreign leader to visit Japan's new emperor at the end of May, reducing his desire to travel to distant Japan to meet Abe again at the end of June. Indeed, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said it had not yet decided whether Trump would attend the Osaka Summit (Harding 2019a).

The second school saw political instability rules after Trump's May 30 threat to impose tariffs on Mexico. The Financial Times editorial board (2019) argued that this was due to surging U.S. relative economic capability in growth in gross domestic product (GDP), its big trade imbalance with China, then Mexico, Germany and Japan in turn, and Trump's position that "can shift at the speed of a tweet."

The third school saw an existential crisis for the G20 due to the U.S.-China trade war and their broader divide on core security issues. J. Berkshire Miller (2019) argued that at Osaka "countries will need to face these tensions ahead, promote cohesion and find a way forward — or risk allowing the Group of 20 to flounder into irrelevance." This was due to China's deep disputes with the United States and Japan on Huawei, intelligence, rare earth minerals, and the East and South China Seas.

The fourth school considered a trade truce unexpected with limited financial and economic damage as the result. Michael Mackenzie (2019) judged a Trump-Xi trade truce at Osaka as unexpected but forecast that this would cause limited damage to business confidence, capital investment and global growth if their trade war did not escalate in the aftermath.

The fifth school saw a tough trade opportunity, due to the great uncertainty in the global economy, the crisis in the multilateral trade system and the WTO, and the very short time to prepare the summit (Armstrong 2019). Japan could make it a success by mobilizing like-minded Asian countries and middle powers to develop a framework, define priorities and catalyze action on WTO reform, to make the preservation of the "open, rules-based multilateral order … the defining strategic outcome of the Osaka Summit."

The sixth school saw an uncertain deal between Trump and Xi at Osaka and economic damage as a result. The Economist (2019) forecast: "If a deal is not struck at or before the G20 Summit in Japan on June 28th and 29th, another sell-off seems likely," against the backdrop of financial fragility from "corporate leverage in America, a debt mountain in China and rickety banks in Europe." Similarly Joe Rennison and James Politi (2019) reported a likely surge in market volatility around the time of the summit, as Trump and Xi had "downplayed the chances of a breakthrough in talks to resolve their trade dispute." A variant saw the G20 as the right "place to sell these proposed reforms" of the WTO as G20 leaders had appointed it the "premier forum for international economic co-operation," even if there were now as many autocratic as liberal democratic leaders there (Robertson 2019).

he seventh school saw the summit as a good first step to rebuild the needed trust between the United States and China on trade and technology, because the risk of failure had become too high given China's economic dependence on the United States and the looming U.S. elections in November 2020. George Magnus (2019) emphasized that technology trade "is a truly global sector and it could pose the kind of highly integrated and systemic threat to the global economy that banking and finance did in 2008 … China's economy is fragile and it is keen for the trade war to go away. It remains reliant on foreign technology and imports." Japanese finance minister Taro Aso highlighted the U.S. elections, the predictable trade diversions and the need for a multilateral solution to trade imbalances, with the G20 as a "great forum" (Harding 2019b).

The eighth school saw Osaka as a potential financial regulation success, due to host Japan still suffering from the Asian-turned-global financial crisis in 1997. Alok Sheel argued it could repeat its great success of financial regulation in 2008–09 on the new issues of shadow banking, asset bubbles, leverage, imbalances and strained IMF resources, due to its successful experience in financial regulation in past years.

The ninth school saw summit trade success, due to the design and dynamics of the G20 summit that had produced the Trump-Xi trade truce at the G20's Buenos Aries Summit seven months before. John Kirton (2019a) argued that "the prospects are that the G20 Osaka Summit will bring a tariff war truce and even cooperative moves on the broader, newer trade agenda, led by reform of the multilateral trade system and World Trade Organization (WTO) for the new digital age." As causes he highlighted the economic and political dynamics of a United States rationally inclined to compromise, a China unwilling to surrender too much too soon, and the proven skill of a politically secure, experienced G20 host Shinzo Abe in producing major plurilateral trade liberalization and in highlighting since January his signature summit success as launching the "Osaka Track" for producing digital free flow with trust.

The 10th school saw a broader useful role for the G20 in containing China's economic adjustments, due to Japan's knowledge of its neighbour and East Asia's experience in exchanging solutions in similar situations since 1997. Naoki Tanaka (2019) argued that despite the geopolitical tensions created by Russian and Chinese security aggressiveness since 2014, Japan could "try to coordinate the efforts that will be needed at the G20 level" to assist China with its economic transition.

The 11th school saw an ecological success, due to the urgent, existential threat of climate change and the unique capacity, responsibility and crucial role of the G20 in response. Fred Krupp (2019) argued that in addressing the current climate catastrophe, highlighted by new knowledge of soaring methane emissions, China was playing an innovative role and that the G20 was the institution required to respond.

The 12th school saw a summit of substantial success, due to ecological and terrorist shocks, its many innovative supporting ministerial meetings and the G20 summit experience of its host. John Kirton (2019b) argued that it would "likely contain trade tensions, affirm that trade boosts growth and prosperity and should be rules-based, and support Prime Minister Abe's signature 'Osaka Track' to guide trade into the digital age. Climate change control and clean oceans through marine litter clean-up and waste management could be important achievements." Other advances would come on aging, the economic, human health and universal health coverage (UHC), labour, well-being, gender equality, digital taxation, quality infrastructure, anti-corruption and even counter-terrorism.

The 13th school saw the summit producing stronger G20 and global governance architecture. Anita Prakash (2019) argued that the Osaka Summit would be a "test of member countries' resolve, Japan's leadership and multilateral organizations' preparedness toward an action plan for restructuring global governance institutions and agreements. This will also strengthen the very foundation on which the G20 is conceptualized — bringing people, places and economies closer than before — for common goals of growth and prosperity."

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These school each offer useful insights. Yet several serious puzzles remain. Most focus narrowly on the escalating U.S.-China trade and now technology dispute, without considering the broad range of subjects the Osaka Summit will address, across the economic, social, ecological and security fields. They pay virtually no attention to the many innovative ministerial meetings held in the lead-up to the summit and the present and prospective contributions they have made. Few make any references to where, why and how G20 summits have succeeded in similar situations in the past, even at Hamburg in 2017 when Donald Trump had arrived, or at Buenos Aires in 2018, which produced the U.S.-China trade truce. And none is grounded in a comprehensive, compact, coherent model of where and why G20 summits succeed or fail. This study takes up these tasks.

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Shortly before the G20 leaders assemble in Osaka, the summit promises to be a broad substantial success, at least as successful as most before (see Appendix A). It will be pulled from the outside by global crises with which the array of established multilateral organizations cannot cope and pushed from the inside by the power of G20 members and leaders themselves.

The G20 leaders at Osaka will produce their broad, substantial success in several ways. They will make progress on host Shinzo Abe's self-declared signature initiative to launch the Osaka Track for a regime of digital free flow with trust. They will contain the current tensions and contribute to consensus on the two big divisive issues currently capturing the headlines — trade liberalization and climate change. They will make important advances on many others — digital taxation, marine litter, quality infrastructure investment, debt sustainability and transparency, UHC in developing countries, and the fight against corruption, terrorist and proliferation finance. And they will pioneer an innovative, forward-looking agenda on aging societies and their implications for fiscal and monetary policy, employment, human health and much more. Little or no progress will come on the traditional core economic subjects of economic imbalances, financial regulation and reform of international financial institutions (IFIs).

This performance will be propelled by several forces. First are the compounding, visible, deadly shocks in the ecological domain, shocks to human and animal health, and shocks from terrorism, all backed by slowing growth and financial fragilities throughout the G20 members. Second is the failure of the major multilateral organizations to respond, notably the largely paralyzed WTO, the secretariat to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) watching global greenhouse gas emissions rise to new heights, the IMF still struggling to secure the resources that it needs to prevent future financial crises, and the World Health Organization (WHO) facing the same challenges in the field of health, in the absence of a body to govern the emerging digital world. Third, G20 members remain the globally predominant source of these problems and the capabilities required in response, and the home of the big emerging countries of China and India growing more rapidly than the biggest established one of the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy. Fourth, the converging characteristics of the G20 members appear in the digital, ecological and social domains even if they are slightly decreasing in the economic and political spheres. Fifth, domestic political cohesion is high in host Japan, and in India and China, and is still solid in the United States, Germany, Brazil and Russia, although it is declining in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Six, as affirmed by the attendance of all G20 leaders save Mexico's Obrador, the G20 summit remains the cherished club at the hub of a global network of summit governance with small new spokes added in 2019, notably the newly institutionalized summit of the Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation.

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Plans and Preparations

Abe's Buenos Aires Agenda Outline

Abe first outlined his priority agenda for the Osaka Summit to his fellow leaders during the final session of the Buenos Aires Summit, where his remarks were beamed into the media centre (Kirton 2018).

The first was promoting free trade. The second was science and technology innovation to solve social problems and foster a human-centred society, with an emphasis on women, youth and people with disabilities. This would produce a "post-industrial 4.0 society." This meant promoting free and open cooperation for a future society that harnessed the full potential of science and technology and the digital world. The third priority was infrastructure for development. The fourth was global health, in ways that would foster high economic growth and create an international global public good.

The fifth was climate change, on the grounds that it was essential to enhance environmental and economic growth together. This meant creating a good circular economy-environment system, and having the private sector invest to bring it to life. The Osaka environmental priority would include acting against marine plastic pollution and supporting marine biodiversity. A related priority was energy.

The sixth priority was aging populations, as Japan spearheaded the effort to address new emerging issues. The seventh priority was promoting the SDGs and international development.

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Abe's Davos Vision

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 23, 2019, Abe (2019) outlined his priorities for the summit. The centrepiece was the Osaka Track. Abe declared he wanted the summit to be remembered for launching global data governance at the World Trade Organization. The Osaka Track would create a regime for data free flow with trust to protect personal, corporate and national security data while allowing the free flow of medical, industrial, traffic and other anonymous data. It would improve education at all levels and thus development and gender equality.

Abe's second key priority was climate change control. Noting the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, he sought net zero carbon emissions by 2050 through such innovative technologies as artificial photosynthesis, methanation, carbon capture and utilization, and hydrogen. He also supported the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and investment in environmental, social and corporate governance.

On the oceans, Abe sought a world-wide commitment "to reduce plastics flowing into the seas" to reduce microplastics and toxic PCB contamination on the ocean floor.

His third priority was trade, as the key component of his determination to "enhancing the free, open, and rules-based international order." He noted the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the European Union-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the need to protect intellectual property and advance e-commerce, government procurement and WTO reform, notably its rules for government subsidies.

In his introduction Abe also noted Japan's achievements in aging, "womenonomics," employment, immigration, child poverty reduction and education.

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The Sherpa Meeting Sequence

The first preparatory sherpa meeting took place in January. After the meeting, Japan's agenda and approach took greater shape.

Trade and Investment Cooperation

On trade and investment cooperation, Abe sought to promote free trade by rebuilding trust in the international trade system, by making it fair, transparent, protective of intellectual property and covering e-commerce, government procurement and subsidies. He would highlight the advances in the recently created CPTPP and the EU-Japan EPA. Japan would counter protectionism and unfair trade practices.

Trade was a constant on the agenda of the G20, which served as a good clearinghouse for ideas rather than a negotiating forum. Much of the negotiation would take place at the WTO in Geneva and in ad hoc bilateral meetings and working groups and be done after June. The natural deadline was not this June but a year later at the next WTO ministerial in Astana, Kazakhstan, in June 2020. The G20 Trade and Investment Working Group would contribute. A small, Geneva-based group would do the final deal.

At Osaka, Japan would seek to reinforce the leaders' Buenos Aires message that investing in a rule-based system and resisting protectionism would be valuable in their own right. In the United States, Europe and elsewhere balancing everyone's interest in attracting investment and security concerns were common issues. A civilized dialogue on these issues at Osaka was the goal.

The Trade and Investment Working Group, created under China's presidency in 2016, fed into the ministerial track. Trade ministers would meet three weeks before Osaka, have their Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ministerial and mini trade ministerials on the margins in May and meet at APEC. By the time G20 leaders met, they would have much to build on. The G20 would be a clearinghouse that would lead to better understanding to take back to the relevant negotiating forums.

The e-commerce track on trade had been launched by 70 countries at Davos. On artificial intelligence (AI) there was the Digital Nine collaborative network and much discussion among governments. The OECD was considering an international code of ethics on AI. Abe's Davos reference to a charter referred to e-commerce, AI or some other dimension. This was a huge, exploding agenda in various forums. Under the digital economy or the innovation agenda, Japan would take stock of all of them, probably not all in one category.

Innovation for Economic Growth and Equality

Another standard agenda item was assessing risks for the global economy, global imbalances and the imbalances between savings and investment. These would be treated as structural issues hindering economic growth, based on the work by the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors.

Empowering Women

On empowering women, Osaka was inspired by Abe's womenomics, which aims to encourage women to work. Japan had added two million women to its workforce and raised female labour force participation to a new peak of 67%, above that in the United States.

Abe professed his belief in the same commitments that Buenos Aires made, as part of Abenomics, to increase growth in Japan and take advantage of a well-educated female workforce. But Japan started some years behind the West, given the culturally embedded ways women were treated. Some G20 members would act as a conscience, seek to fulfill prior commitments, and work with Australia to report on the Brisbane commitment to reduce the gender gap in labour market participation by 25% by 2025. The well-led Women's 20 could help.

International Health

On international health, Osaka would address the long outstanding concern on anti-microbial resistance (AMR). On the International Health Regulations (IHRs), WHO had its corpus on the minimum standards needed to ensure safety and health, but on adaptation and implementation was way behind. On HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, many members sought to replenish on Global Fund, but it was unclear how much money could be raised.

On strengthening UHC in developing countries, Japan proposed bringing together finance and health ministers. But some felt they would need development representatives to advance. There were many competitors for additional official development assistance, so a consensus on financing UHC would be difficult to secure. It would also be hard to get consensus on UHC in the developed world, given the United States and thus could be paternalistic to tell the developing world to do it.

Climate Change and the Environment

On climate change and resilience against natural disasters, Abe sought to highlight how innovation helped control climate change, through technologies such as artificial photosynthesis, methanation, carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen and climate-related financial disclosure.

The United States still professed to be a full participant in the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC and not be a party to the Paris Agreement. There was much agreement on collaborative work to improve energy efficiency. The Osaka focus would be on the energy transition, as all were moving toward a greener, cleaner economy. One way was the responsible use of fossil fuels. The U.S. administration was hearing from business, mayors and governors.

Osaka would make limited progress. With COP 25 not quite ripe, Japan as a G7 member would lead the issue to the Biarritz Summit in August, where Macron was championing climate change. Osaka would be a stock tacking rather than source of significant shifts.

Japan had the legacy of the Kyoto accord to follow through on. China and India needed to be seen domestically to be cleaning up their own environment. So climate change would be prominent. No one would gang up on the Americans but all would reiterate their respective views.

There was some debate about what was renewable and sustainable. Some emphasized hydroelectricity and nuclear power. Japan had returned to some nuclear power with strict licensing. Germany remained opposed. All agreed that cleaner technology could be a major contributor. The jury was still out on carbon capture and storage as the economics were not proven.

On fossil fuel subsidies, the United States and China had been the first to subject themselves to an OECD-anchored peer review. Canada and Argentina were the third pair of G20 members to be peer reviewed, after Germany and Mexico, and followed by Italy and Indonesia, almost in parallel with Canada and Argentina.

Fossil fuels would be used for decades hence. There was no infrastructure to convert to electric cars in the short term. The energy ministers were responsible for how to conduct that clean energy transition. Thus Japan would bring the energy and environment ministers together just before the Osaka Summit.

Japan did not want climate change to dominate the entire environmental discussion at Osaka. It added oceans, a natural choice for an archipelagic country. The summit would address all marine pollution, including ships' ballast. Japan had also done much work on plastic packaging, and Osaka would try to reduce plastic pollution of all forms in the world's oceans.

Institutions for a Digital Economy

On the digital agenda, Japan's technology and innovation were underestimated globally, and its firms were leading patentees. They were among the most innovative in the world. The country's demographics, restrictions on immigration and need for robots for seniors' health care also gave them a strong interest in AI. The ministers responsible for the digital economy would discuss catalyzing investment and advances in innovation to capture the best that digitalization could offer.

Japan was framing this as a horizontal issue covering electronic filing of customs documentation, electronic signatures, the ethics of AI, privacy, big data, jobs, education, skilling, upskilling, and financial payments with bitcoin and fintech. Japan's "Society 5.0" would pick up on the Buenos Aires agenda. There was nervousness about hacking by Russian and Chinese surveillance. There was also a need to ensure social accountability and a social licence to promote the technology.

The Japanese presidency would create a digital working group. G20 trade ministers would meet on their own to follow through the WTO agenda, and then the ministers responsible for the digital economy would join them the day before or after.


The aging society agenda included implications for financial and social policies and financial inclusion. It built on Japan's success in raising the number of active workers over age 65 by two million. Aging would be addressed as a structural issue that hindered sustainable economic growth and that fiscal, monetary and other policies needed to adapt to.

The discussion would focus on what each member should do. Most G20 members had aging populations. Canada, Korea and China were not far behind Japan. Labour force participation should increase, so seniors would contribute to the tax coffers. Older people needed more health care. Mandatory retirement should be re-considered, as should how governments support making people's lives more rewarding and contribute to the public good. Healthcare costs care were important. Some members encouraged a lifelong approach that included youth. The issue of aging populations would arise in the labour and health streams as well as the digital agenda and work streams.

IMF and World Bank Reform and Resources

The sherpas discussed IMF and World Bank reform and resources. The Commission on Global Governance Reform, authored by former Singaporean prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, had highlighted a range of issues. The report coincided with the periodic long-promised review of voice and representation or quota reform. The IMF, unlike the World Bank, combined raising resources with the distribution of board seats, in a zero sum game. Who would free up some of their quota so China could rise to the second rank? Europe was still over-represented and Africa under-represented. The issue would be discussed at Osaka, following the finance ministers' meetings in February and then at the IMF.

As with the recent World Bank capital increase, there might be an IMF reform that would spend less on China and Brazil and more on the poorest. This would be decided on by the executive board rather than the managing director. Some conservative commentators felt that giving the IMF more money was subsidizing China's Belt and Road Initiative, as it would be used to bail out countries unable to repay their debt to China. Others emphasized the need for IMF funds for countries such as Argentina and Ukraine.

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Pre-Summit Bilateral Meetings

Contributing to the preparatory process were the many pre-summit bilateral meetings among G20 leaders. In early June Abe hosted Trump in Tokyo. Trump then went to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Trudeau visited Trump in Washington on June 20. Putin and Xi met in Russia at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

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Ministerial Meetings

The Osaka preparatory process also included an ample and innovative set of pre-summit ministerial meetings (see Appendix B).

Agriculture, Niigata, May 11–18

The first was for agriculture ministers, held in Niigata on May 11–12. It produced 15 commitments, including two referencing health, one referencing climate change and two referencing gender (see Appendix C). The 15 commitments were fewer than the 29 in 2017, 47 in 2016, 16 in 2015 and 29 in 2011.

Finance Ministers and Central Bankers, Fukuoka, June 8–9

The second ministerial was for finance ministers and central bank governors, held in Fukuoka on June 8–9.

It produced 30 commitments across 10 subjects, a slightly higher total across a broader set of subjects than any of its pre-summit predecessors in the recent past (see Appendix D). The finance ministerial in Chengdu in July 2016 produced 27 commitments across 10 subjects; in Baden Baden in March 2017 finance ministers and central bankers made 28 commitments across nine subjects, and in Buenos Aires in July 2018 they made only 12 commitments across only five subjects.

Fukuoka shifted the focus to crime and corruption, debt transparency and sustainability, and, once again, to tax, with digitalization appearing in several categories.

The focus on crime and corruption suggested that Osaka would be a security success, especially with the commitment: "We welcome the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2462, which stresses the essential role of the FATF [Financial Action Task Force] in setting global standards for preventing and combatting money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing. We reiterate our strong commitments to step up efforts to fight these threats." Another advance came on health, with the commitment on the "G20 Shared Understanding on the Importance of UHC Financing in Developing Countries."

The highlight of the meeting was the agreement by all members including the United States to accept the new G20-OECD principles on digital taxation and advance them to establish a detailed regime by 2020. As this agreement was widely expected to be endorsed by the G20 leaders at Osaka, the summit had produce its first serious success. Yet, as there were no commitments on trade, climate change or energy, uncertainty on these big divisive issues remained.

Trade and Digital Ministers, Tsubuka, June 8–9

The third ministerial was for trade ministers. It was uniquely combined with those for the digital economy, held in Tsubuka on June 8–9. The trade ministers produced 15 commitments, the highest any trade ministerial had ever made (see Appendix F). The first commitment was: "We strive to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, to keep our markets open." The second was: "We agree that action is necessary to improve the functioning of the WTO." In all, three commitments dealt with the WTO and its reform.

The digital ministers at Tsubuka made 15 commitments, down from the 24 they made in 2017 (see Appendix F).

Energy and Environment, Karuizawa, June 15–16

The fourth ministerial was for ministers responsible for energy transitions and the global environment, taking place in Karuizawa on June 15–16. This was the first time in G20 history that G20 environment ministers met.

Climate Change and Clean Energy. The institutional innovation and combination of these two ministries signalled Japan's approach to making progress on climate change by treating it as an issue of clean energy, which can be produced by technology. The emphasis on clean energy technology aligned well with the position of Donald Trump's United States and other big hydrocarbon producers such as Russia and Saudi Arabia.

On June 11, just before the ministerial began, Japan adopted a long-term strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to present at the meeting, and also at the United Nations and the Osaka Summit (Jiji Press 2019a). Cast as part of its economic growth strategy, Japan would pursue decarbonization, reduce coal and nuclear power, and emphasize technologies to recycle carbon dioxide into fuel and building materials, store it under the ground and oceans, and emphasize carbon dioxide–free hydrogen energy. It would also develop a system for disclosing information to the public to assess how much firms were controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Marine Litter. Marine litter was a focus for the ministerial and the United States there. Six Asian countries are the biggest polluters and produce 60% of the world's marine waste, led by China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam (Eilperin and Dennis 2019). The waters surrounding Japan contained more dense plastics than the global average (Japan Times 2019), In March 2019, Japan had produced a draft Strategy for Plastics Resources Circulation to prevent microplastics from entering the ocean by 2020. Japan had been stung by criticism of its failure to join the Oceans Plastics Charter at the Charlevoix Summit in 2018 to render all plastics recyclable by 2030.

At the Karuizawa ministerial, to be followed at Osaka, Japan proposed the creation of the world's first international framework to compile data on plastic waste (Suzuki 2019). It would include the amount flowing into the oceans and the ways it is generated, flows from rivers into the ocean and circulates once there. Japan would urge its G20 partners to report annually the amount of plastic waste they generate, how much of it they recycle and how much they incinerate. Japan urged Southeast Asian and other countries to join.

Japan considered proposing establishing an international organization to do this, and to have the UN create rules on marine litter. Japan committed to offer technical assistance to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for waste disposal. It would create a monitoring post for plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

Ministers agreed, likely to be followed by their leaders, to choose the most effective pilot projects, of the sort the United States  already had with Peru, Jamaica and Panama, and move them to the implementation phase. They might also agree on a plastic product ban, but without the United States.

The first step — data gathering — on which all G20 members agree, would be important. The only data currently available comes from estimates by university researchers, lacks details, and estimates between 4.78 million and 12.75 million metric tons a year (Suzuki 2019). By country, China leads, with 3.53 million tons, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam (Yomiuri Shimbun 2019b). Japan at 60,000 metric tons is a vulnerable front-line state, with its big cities all on the coastlines geographically bearing the brunt of the marine litter its Asian neighbours create.

At the end of their meeting, G20 energy and environment ministers, alone and together, produced 79 commitments (see Appendix G. The energy ministers alone made 39, the environment ministers alone made 28, and the two combined made another 12. At 39, energy ministers made more commitments than the 26 they made in Beijing in 2016 and the 20 in Istanbul in 2015. The United States declined to pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with its Paris Agreement pledges.

The G20 ministers agreed to create the first international framework for members to voluntarily reduce their plastic pollution in the ocean. Their communiqué stated: "Marine litter, especially marine plastic litter and microplastics, is a matter requiring urgent action given its adverse impacts on marine ecosystems, livelihoods, and industries including fisheries, tourism, and shipping, and potentially on human health." Under the new framework, members would report their data, share solutions, adopt a life-cycle approach and start implementation. However, U.S. resistance prevailed over EU support for targets or concrete measures to phase out single-use plastics. Still, on the first day of the ministerial, Japan announced that it would require its businesses to charge for disposable shopping bags by April 2020.

This advance built on the G20 action plan on marine litter produced at the Hamburg Summit in 2017 (Obayashi 2019), Implementation would start in the fall of 2019 when Japan would host the first meeting of the new framework, on the occasion of the meeting of the G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue.

Energy ministers also discussed the recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and their implications for energy security and the price of oil. The communiqué referred to the attacks two days earlier on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, an incident that reignited concern over tensions in the Middle East and sent global oil prices jumping. It noted "recent developments highlighting concern about energy security," and emphasized the importance of preventing energy supply disruptions and easing stable markets.

Finance and Health, Osaka, June 28

The fifth pre-summit ministerial would be for finance and health ministers, to be held on the margins of the Osaka Summit itself. This unique combination would seek to have finance ministers understand the costs already are imposing by poor health already and how cost-effective investments should be made and could be financed. A key component would be financing the extension of publicly supported UHC in developing countries over the longer term.

As the third sherpa meeting in Osaka on June 25–27 began, disagreements remained on many issues. The biggest was on climate change, where the United States resisted references to "global warming" and the Paris Agreement, while France's Macron insisted that the communiqué affirm the intentions of the willing members to implement the agreement and act strongly against climate change. Plastic pollution was the only subject of complete consensus.

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Momentum from Compliance

As the Osaka Summit approached, its prospects were enhanced by the momentum from the high compliance of its members with the priority commitments they had made at their previous summit at Buenos Aires on December 1, 2018, a mere seven months before. Since the G20 leaders started meeting in 2008 through to 2016, compliance with summit commitments averaged 71%, as assessed by the G20 Research Group. Compliance with the 2017 Hamburg Summit commitments spiked to at least 80%. Preliminary results on the commitments made at Buenos Aires in 2018 showed they remained at this high level of 77%.

At both of the Hamburg and Buenos Aires summits, the United States was represented by Donald Trump. U.S. compliance was 71% with its 2018 commitments. Host Japan had 80% and neighbouring China 88%, along with Argentina and Canada.

By subject, preliminary results on compliance were led by the commitments on health (UHC) at 93%, digital infrastructure and energy security both at 90%, and cleaner, flexible and transparent systems on energy and food security (malnutrition) both at 87%. Then came the climate change commitment on the Paris Agreement at 87%, the future of work, women's economic empowerment and inclusive growth all at 80%.

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As the G20 Osaka Summit approaches, it is likely to be a broad, substantial success. Its success will begin on its most difficult issues of digital free flow with trust, trade, and climate change, oceans and the environment Appendix H.

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Data Free Flow with Trust

The first achievement will be a consensus on Abe's signature initiative for launching the Osaka Track for digital free flow with trust. It will include a work program and perhaps principles, all focused on business data. Given the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and cybersecurity threats, including Russian hacks and spying, Japan and its G20 partners agree there is a need for rules to facilitate cross-border data for big data and AI.

Specifically, the communiqué will agree to launch the Osaka Track to create a framework for writing international rules on the digital economy, with the rules agreed within a year (Yomiuri Shimbun 2019a). The leaders' Osaka Statement will also welcome progress on an e-commerce agreement among 80 members of the WTO, support rule creation and have results for the WTO ministerial in June 2020.

This advance will represent a compromise between reluctant India and South Africa, supported by Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, which wish to directly tax data export for the revenue required for development, and the more advanced economies in the G20. It would help forestall the unilateral measures taken by many members, including India, France and the United Kingdom.

The OECD ministerial had produced a set of principles and guidelines on the use of AI. At the G20, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia will adapt them and agree to the result, rather than have their host and their summit so visibly fail.

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Trade and Investment

On trade and investment the U.S. "America first" approach will confront the other G20 members' belief in international institutions and rules. Yet many members wish to respond to China's subtle protectionism over China's subsidized steel and Canada's canola and pork exports in retaliation for its extradition process of a Huwaei executive at the request of the United States.

Both sides profess their adherence to the rules and claim the other side is cheating. On state-owned enterprises, steel subsidies, hacking and theft of intellectual property, the United States  and its partners claims that China is breaking the rules.

G20 agriculture ministers produced reasonably good language on trade and the role of science in trade, which could be used in the summit communiqué.

In late May, APEC trade ministers issued a consensus communiqué in which the United States publicly agreed that trade is good for growth and prosperity, even the statement was weak and omitted some key issues. The communiqué contained a reference to regional and plurilateral trade rules, if not WTO ones.

Japan had begun its bilateral negotiations with United States on autos, and on other matters of economic significance to Japan's economy. While visiting Abe in Tokyo in late May, Trump agreed to defer his threatened protectionist trade actions against Japan until after the Japanese upper House of Councillors elections in July and thus after the Osaka Summit at the end of June.

All in the G20 system recalled that the two high-profile side events at Buenos Aires both produced trade-liberalizing deals. The Trump-Trudeau meeting to sign the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (aka the new NAFTA) and the Trump-Xi dinner that produced a trade truce and new round of talks.

Just before Osaka, Trump produced a mini-repeat, by removing U.S. tariffs on Canadian exports of aluminum and steel to help get the new NAFTA ratified. He then threatened to impose a 5% tariff on Mexico over its immigration policy but backed off before the deadline arrived.

Moreover, on June 19 Trump announced that he would hold an "extended meeting" with Xi at Osaka and that their trade teams would resume their discussions before then (Sink 2019; Smialek, Tankersley and Ewing 2019). The announcement, confirmed by the Chinese government, followed Trump's initiative to contact Xi by phone, for a 20 -minute conversation that Trump said was "very good."

Osaka could thus produce a repeat of Buenos Aires in a modified or even enhanced form. It could contain a U.S. trade truce and resumption of negotiations with China, spur U.S. trade liberalization with Japan, advance the work of the G20's Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity and pledge to reform the WTO. It will agree, despite U.S. objections that "trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified" (Yomuiri Shimbun 2019).

It will not include the traditional anti-protectionist pledge, which had disappeared from the communiqué at Buenos Aires in 2018.

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Climate and Environment

On the third major subject, the "global commons" of climate, oceans and the environment, substantial practical advances will come.

On climate change, all members except the United States will agree to support the Paris Agreement, complete its implementing rulebook at the UNFCCC's COP in Chile in December and improve the national determined voluntary contributions committed at the long scheduled time at the COP at the end of 2020.

The United States will repeat its declared intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement at the earliest possible moment, in November 2020, and reaffirm its recognition of the need for a cleaner natural environment.

Climate finance will be advanced but in a limited way. Korea has been seeking early down payments on replenishing the Green Fund, but others want the money to be devoted to global health.

The United States will again stress clean energy as the key instrument. It will be supported by Japan, which is strongly motivated not to offend the United States and has long highlighted Japan's many clean technologies.

On the oceans and marine waste, leaders will endorse their G20 ministers agreement to create a voluntary international framework for members to reduce their ocean plastic pollution. Under this framework, members would report their data and share solutions. The leaders might add some further steps.

Biodiversity will be addressed. China is hosting the next COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, but the United States is not a signatory. Much on biodiversity will be left to the G7, as France's Macron has made it a priority for the Biarritz Summit on August 24–26.

On resilience against natural disasters, G20 leaders will reinforce the risk insurance facilities that support small island development states and vulnerable African ones.

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Beyond these modest advances on the three biggest issues, the Osaka Summit will make progress on a broad range of other subjects.

Tax will be a prominent one. The G20 will continue its successful work on base erosion and profit shifting and on the automatic exchange of information by inducing more countries to adhere to the expanding regime.

Digital taxation, a controversial issue, will see a consensus on the principles for creating a revolutionary new regime by 2020. The old regime required firms to have a permanent establishment in a country for the government to levy a tax on it. This new regime will share the profits from digital firms among the countries where the value is created, according to the proportion of either the customers or users in them, even if the firm has no permanent establishment there.

Over the next year, G20 members will explore basing the new regime on the "user participation" approach proposed by the United Kingdom or the "marketing intangibles" approach proposed by the United States. The U.S. approach could cover not only e-commerce but also manufacturing.

To deal with tax havens, G20 members will work toward a common definition of tax haven and thus what restrictions should be placed on related dealings. France and Germany have proposed imposing a minimum tax on firms that use them. G20 leaders will agree to discuss this, but achieving a consensus will be difficult as it directly intrudes on the sovereign prerogatives of states.

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Health will see important progress too. Leaders will produce a vision of UHC, which is a top Japanese priority. It will be cast in development terms and as a long-term goal. The United States will not agree to instituting publicly funded UHC at home. The G20 will emphasize the importance of introducing UHC at an early stage of the development process, as a contributor to development overall (Kirton and Kickbusch 2019). The leaders will also agree that it should be financed largely from domestic resources.

AMR will be advanced. Work will continue on diseases affecting the developing world in particular, namely malaria, tuberculosis and polio. The value of adhering to the IHRs could be endorsed, as could nutrition for early childhood development and for disadvantaged rural communities. Japan will succeed in having the value of robotics for health care noted. There will be action against the spread of Ebola, in response to the spread of the deadly epidemic in the Congo into neighbouring Uganda in mid June.

Advanced economy concerns of measles and opioids might be noted too.

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On aging, Osaka will set an agenda for future work. G20 leaders will affirm that aging is a common problem with important impacts on productivity, fiscal policy, monetary policy, employment, health and healthcare costs, and nutrition. They will note that some G20 members, such as Saudi Arabia, have a youth bulge and thus adopt a lifelong approach starting with early childhood nutrition. Yet Saudi Arabia recognizes that it will face an aging population in the future and will thus continue this agenda when it hosts the G20 in 2020.

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Quality Infrastructure for Development

Quality infrastructure for development will see another advance.It will aim at smarter spending that does not aggravate the debt burden of developing countries, crowds in the private sector in a sensible way and supports several other SDGs, including those on climate change, the environment and health. It will also foster trade. It will work to develop infrastructure as an asset class, building on the initiative of Argentina's Buenos Aires Summit in 2018. G20 leaders will set a common set of principles that will guide the practices of the multilateral development banks (MDBs) that they control. They will build on the Ise-Shima Principles for Quality Infrastructure that Japan pioneered at the G7 summit it hosted in 2016 (Osaki 2019). It was affirmed at the G20 Hangzhou Summit in 2016. Those principles had focused on ecological quality. The Osaka ones would add governance, with transparency and openness in procurement at the core. Economic efficiency over the full life-cycle costs were included too. At the G20 finance ministerial in Fukuoka, China compromised, allowing consensus on a six-point statement that codified and publicized principles. It built on Xi's emphasis on quality infrastructure in his speech at the second Belt and Road Forum in April in Beijing. It also responded to French concerns when G7 member Italy joined the Belt and Road Initiative. Osaka's voluntary principles would swiftly guide the work of the G20's Global Infrastructure Hub, the World Bank and its partners of the BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Osaka will build on the G7 Ise-Shima principles from 2016, but add a focus on governance — the need for transparency, openness and debt sustainability. China and India will endorse these principles for the first time.

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Debt Sustainability and Transparency

On the related issue of debt sustainability and transparency of low-income countries, at Osaka there will be an agreement on guidelines that will govern the work of the MDBs, including the BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

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On gender equality, G20 leaders will focus on women in the workplace, reaffirm their 2014 Brisbane 25x25 commitment, and emphasize women's entrepreneurship and leadership. They will note the importance of the social context of child health and an infrastructure ecosystem to help women in the workforce be treated with respect and equality. There will be an endorsement of efforts to encourage educate more women in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They are also likely to approve Abe's initiative and commit to give four million more young women at least 12 years of high-quality education by 2020 (Murakami 2019).

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Economics and Finance

Less real progress, if any, will come on the G20's traditionally core economic and finance issues prepared by the finance track — global economic risks; global imbalances; fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policy; IFI reform; and financial regulation and supervision.

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On anti-corruption, leaders will press the remaining G20 members to join the OECD Anti-bribery Convention. There will be no consensus on Canada's desire to have the convention cover employees of state-owned enterprises, and little on India's desire for new extradition treaties for economic crime writ large, which refers to under- or over-invoicing on customs declarations.

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A broad range of security subjects will be addressed. These include terrorism, in response to the rising attacks in Asia and elsewhere. Nuclear proliferation will appear in private discussions about nearby North Korea and Iran. There could even be discussion about democracy and human rights, as Trump has said he would raise this issue in his discussion with Xi.

In all, the G20 Osaka Summit will seek to and succeed in making advances across most of the UN's 2030 Agenda's SDGs.

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Propellers of Performance

This successful performance is propelled by the likely condition of the six causes highlighted by systemic hub model of G20 governance (Kirton 2013; Kirton 2016; Kirton and Kokotsis 2015). Shock-activated vulnerability is substantial in the domains of the ecology, trade, digital technology, terrorism and health, backed by financial fragilities and slowing economic growth. Multilateral organizational failure is pronounced, with the UNFCCC not planning to improve the climate control regime until its 2020 summit, an unreformed WTO increasingly paralyzed, and the IMF struggling to raise the resources to deter or meet the anticipated demands, even if the UN slowly progresses on its SDGs. The predominant equalizing capability of G20 members is high, as their overwhelming share of all relevant global capabilities is matched by the steady currency values and high economic growth rates of China, India, relative to those in the G7 members led by the United States and Japan. A constraint comes from the moderate and sagging convergence among G20 members in their economic, social and political openness, led by closure in China, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia but offset by the ecological convergence in all members but the United States. Still, domestic political cohesion in the most powerful members is high in Japan, China and India and still substantial in the United States and Germany, giving the key G20 leaders abroad together the domestic freedom to do big cooperative deals. They would do so as the increasingly valued club at the hub or a growing global network, recently extended by the dense array of onsite bilateral meetings and the newly institutionalized summit of the Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation.

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Shock-Activated Vulnerability

The particular pattern of shock-activated vulnerability should spur a solid, spread-out/sprawling success. The classic financial and economic shocks and vulnerabilities are low, while the G20's newer ones of terrorism, climate change, natural disasters (such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010), energy and health rise to substantial levels.

Economics and Finance

Economic and financial shocks were few, even if fragilities grew. There is no global or regional financial crisis and no signs of one, despite new country-specific concerns about Argentina and Turkey. U.S. economic growth was 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019, offering the prospect of a locomotive to counter the global growth slowdown predicted by IMF and OECD. Shocks and vulnerabilities from financial stability and regulation, tax, and IFI reform are absent too.

This suggests small success on the G20 core economic and finance agenda, which Japan has not put as a priority for Osaka, selecting only the small issue of imbalances there.


In contrast, terrorist shocks have erupted in a tight time sequence in New Zealand with 51 deaths, Northern Ireland in G20-member United Kingdom with one death and in Sri Lanka, where there were several G20 nationals among the 250 deaths on Easter Sunday in late April. The United States  and United Kingdom issued travel advisories and assisted Sri Lankan authorities in the response. The shock, publicly claimed by ISIS, was all the more powerful coming just a few weeks after the positive shock of the final territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

To be sure, the trend and level are much lower than the 9/11 mega shocks in the United States with over 3,000 deaths that spurred the G20 Ottawa ministerial meeting in November 2001 to a high, innovative success. They are lower, and far less concentrated in G20 members, than those in the lead-up to Antalya in November 2015 that led French president François Hollande to stay at home. Yet their tight temporal, concentrated, geographic spread and escalating death toll suggest a strongly rising, globally systemic threat, of a type the G20 has regularly dealt with in the past.

Japan has not put terrorism on the Osaka agenda in any way. Yet there has long been space for such subjects to be addressed in the private deliberations among the leaders, as they were at Hamburg in July 2017.

Ecology, Climate Change and Natural Disasters

There was a strong, steadily soaring and spreading set of ecological shocks from extreme weather events that would spur success, as the Haitian earthquake of January 12, 2010, had for the G20 sherpa meeting at the time and the Toronto Summit in June.

In the spring of 2019, the United States faced historically high and damaging floods in the Midwest farm belt in the spring. Japan set new heat record highs in early June. Later that month, unusually strong heat waves hit Russia's Siberia, India, Poland and France. Canada's western provinces were struck by an escalating wildfire wave. In 2018 Germany has its highest average temperature on record and its driest summer.

These visible, directly felt, harmful events gave growing public credence to the alarming scientific findings highlighted in the IPCC report on October 8, 2018. It showed rising emissions passing a tipping point that left only a dozen years at best to prevent the possible extinction of human life. It was followed by a similarly credible report showing severe, unprecedented biodiversity loss.

Adding more visibility were the soaring and spreading mass protests and strikes over climate change. Inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, student strikes spread across Europe and beyond. The "Extinction Revolution" movement partially shut down the centre of London and the global financial services centred there. A compelling documentary by Sir David Attenborough rendered the damage from plastics to the oceans and their fish publicly visible to many.

Japan from the start had given climate change and natural disasters a prominent place as an Osaka priority, driven by the typhoon that had flooded and closed the Osaka airport in 2018 and the tsunami that had devastated Fukushima and created a nuclear threat in 2011. Awakening these memories was a 6.7 magnitude earthquake on June 18 in Niigata that injured at least 26 people (Sugiyama 2019).


Energy shocks also arose. Between the start of 2019 and April 26, the world oil price rose 40% to surpass $75 a barrel for Brent crude. It was widely expected to rise further in the coming months, due to shutdowns in Venezuela and Libya and the U.S. decision in late April to end all legal oil exports from Iran. The response of Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world's first and second largest exporters respectively, remains unclear. The oil price spiked again, and a supply cut-off emerged, with the attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.


Health shocks in the form of deadly acute outbreak events have erupted with the return and spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo — recalling the shocking deaths of more than 11,000 people that put health on the G20 agenda and led to 33 commitments at the Brisbane Summit in November 2014 (Pilling 2019; Wilson 2019). Since its return in August 2018, by June 14 the following year it had infected 2,000, killed 1,400 and spread to neighbouring Uganda where two had died, despite Uganda's high healthcare capabilities. This second worst epidemic in history was caused by the whole-of-government drivers of armed conflict and distrust of government heathcare workers, rather than the absence of bio-medical capabilities such as vaccines. It should thus spur G20 action on health security, UHC and Ebola itself.


Military shocks also arose from Iran and nearby North Korea, spurring success on security subjects, in a way reminiscent of the action against Syrian chemical weapons from the G20's St. Petersburg Summit in September 2013. On June 13, just as Abe was meeting Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, one Japanese and one Norwegian oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, forcing the crews to abandon ship. The United States concluded that Iran's Revolutionary Guards conducted the attacks. The attacks followed those of May 14 when two Saudi oil-pumping stations were attacked and of May 12 when four oil tankers, including two Saudi ones, were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. With world oil prices immediately spiking on June 13, this latest military attack in the sequence will spur Osaka's performance on energy, proliferation finance and regional security. This was especially as Iran had no allies at the G20 table, as Japan depends heavily on Iranian oil and as Abe has played a bridge-building role with Iran.

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Multilateral Organizational Failure

The pattern of multilateral organizational failure will also drive Osaka's broad, substantial success on subjects beyond the traditional economic and financial ones. On the latter, the IMF, Financial Stability Board and Bank for International Settlements are performing adequately, while the WTO is not. The UN's environmental organizations are lagging behind the growing need to control climate change. None is dedicated to count and control marine litter. WHO similarly needs assured resources to cope with the new Ebola outbreak and chronic diseases.

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Predominant, Equalizing Capability, Connectivity and Vulnerability

A third propeller of Osaka's performance is predominant, equalizing capability and rising connectivity and vulnerability.

The G20 members retain their strong global predominance in overall capabilities and in almost all the specialized capabilities directly relevant to the Osaka agenda.

Among the leading members, capabilities are equalizing, as a slowing China and India still grow much faster than a strengthening United States  and Europe.

Osaka's success shifting from the old economic subjects to the newer social, ecological and security ones is propelled by the changing pattern of connectivity among them. On climate change their connectivity is complete in its geographic breadth and intensifying in its depth as greenhouse gas emissions rose into their single shared atmosphere and the sinks that counter them declined. On oceans and its marine litter, all G20 countries are oceanic ones, as the rising waste within the waters spreads more rapidly among the geographically connected oceans and now into a melting Arctic Ocean too. On digitalization, connectivity is rising, with over half of the world's people now directly connected to the internet or digital world in some form. In contrast, on trade and investment, the traditional rate of growth is in decline, offset by the more globally integrated supply chains that lie behind.

The rising, shared and equalizing vulnerability among G20 members also propels Osaka's success.

The shared demographic vulnerability of the G20's most powerful members will spur Osaka's success on aging populations and the many implications that they have (Eberstadt 2019). Many of the most powerful G20 countries are facing declining, aging populations and the reduced GDP, tax revenues, workers, labour productivity and rising healthcare costs that they bring. China, with 1.4 billion people, has a plunging fertility rate, proliferating aging and population peaking by 2027. Russia has a shrinking, aging, unhealthy population now. Life expectancy in the United States  has been dropping since 2014 due to a rise in "deaths of despair." In Japan and the European Union  fertility rates and working-age populations are in long-term decline while aging accelerates.

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Political Cohesion

Limiting Osaka to substantial rather than striking or even strong success is the moderate level of domestic political cohesion its leaders have (Kirton 2015). Abe as host is in a secure position, with his coalition have a two-thirds majority in both the upper and lower legislative chambers. He faces an upper house election on July 21 but his governing Liberal Democratic Party–led coalition is expected to win easily.

Support for his cabinet slipped to 47.6% in mid June from 50.5% in mid May, due to concerns about the sustainability of Japan's public pensions plans (Kyodo News 2019). A majority 63.8% felt they could not rely on it, providing an incentive for Abe to succeed on his G20 aging priority. Abe's scheduled October rise in the consumption tax from 8% to 10% was opposed by 56%. However, 53.2% approved of his recent visit to Iran.

On the specific issues on the Osaka Summit agenda, a foreign ministry poll in March found 49% of respondents choosing ocean plastic waste as their top concern, followed in turn by climate change and energy at 48%, and the international economy and trade at 42% (Johnston 2019). As a veteran of six G20 summits, Abe is one of the most experienced leaders at Osaka Appendix E. This strongly supports personal convictions favouring democracy, free trade and economic openness and rules-based multilateralism grounded in the UN.

Abe will receive strong support from a similarly committed German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She is the most experienced G20 leader and the only one to have attended every G20 summit since the start. She will remain chancellor until 2021, heading a coalition government of her Christian Democrat party and the Social Democratic party that has a secure majority in both houses of the legislature. However, her party's first-place position slipped to a narrow lead in the recent elections for the European parliament, and slipped just below the rapidly rising Green Party in the most recent polls (Bittner 2019), By mid June the Greens had risen to 26%, just ahead of Merkel's CDU at 25%, driven in part by the climate shocks of Germany's highest ever average temperatures and most arid summer in 2018.

In the United States, Donald Trump does not control his lower legislative chambers and the campaign for the 2020 election has begun. The other G7 leaders have low political control.

In Canada, an Ekos poll released on June 17 showed Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party only two points behind the opposition Conservative Party, down from 12 points behind in March (Ekos 2019). In the most populous province of Ontario, the Liberals had a 10-point lead. This suggested a Liberal minority government were an election held that day, rather than as scheduled on October 21. They could well depend for a legislative majority on the support of the surging Green Party, which in a recent by-election had just won its second seat. Confirming this trend was a Nanos poll covering the week to June 21 that showed the Liberals now tied with the Conservatives at 33%, followed by the NDP with 17%, the Greens with 10% and the People's Party at 1% (Nanos 2019).

Among the BRICS members, only India's Narendra Modi, fresh from a majority victory in his general election, has high political control. Xi and Putin seem secure but recent protests in Hong Kong and Russia make them fear rising social unrest.

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Club at the Hub

A final propeller of Osaka's success is the summit's slowly increasing status as a cherished club at the hub or an expanding network of global summit governance. The only leader absent will be the newly elected president of Mexico. The Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on April 26 added a Chinese spoke to the G20 summit-centred network, which now includes G7 members Italy, the United Kingdom  and half of the European Union. This year the G20 summit comes first in a sequence of global summits that include the G7 at Biarritz on August 24–26, four UN summits in New York in September and the BRICS Summit in Brazil on November 13–14. Osaka's meaningful if modest advances will serve as a base on which much can be build before Japan's year as G20 host ends.

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Appendix A: G20 Summit Performance, 2008–2018

  Grade Domestic political management Deliberation Direction setting Decision making Delivery Development of global governance
Internal External
Attendance # compliments % members complimented # days # documents # words Stability Inclusion Democracy Liberty # commitments Compliance # Assessed # references Spread # references Spread
2008 A− 100% 0 0% 2 2 3,567 16 2 10 2 95 75% 8 0 4 39 11
2009 La A 100% 1 5% 2 3 6,155 29 6 9 0 129 57% 7 12 4 120 27
2009 Pb A− 100% 0 0% 2 2 9,257 11 21 28 1 128 67% 15 47 4 115 26
2010 Tc A− 90% 8 15% 2 5 11,078 47 32 11 1 61 68% 15 71 4 164 27
2010 Sd B 95% 5 15% 2 5 15,776 66 36 18 4 153 67% 41 99 4 237 31
2011 B 95% 11 35% 2 3 14,107 42 8 22 0 282 74% 22 59 4 247 27
2012 A− 95% 6 15% 2 2 12,682 43 23 31 3 180 77% 19 65 4 138 20
2013 A 90% 15 55% 2 11 28,766 73 108 15 3 281 69% 24 190 4 237 27
2014 B 90% 10 40% 2 5 9,111 10 12 1 0 205 72% 26 39 4 42 12
2015 B 90% 0 0% 2 6 5,983 13 22 0 2 198 71% 23 42 4 54 11
2016 B+ 95% 7 25% 2 4 16,004 11 29 34 5 213 73% 24 179 4 223 19
2017 B+ 95% 0 0 2 10 34,746 42 61 2 11 529 85% 17 54 6 307 19
2018 B− 90 0 0 2 2 13,515 23 53 7 2 128 77% 20 20 5 24 15
Total N/A N/A 68 N/A 26 60 180,747 403 360 188 34 2,582 N/A 229 877 55 1,947 272
Average N/A 95% 5.67 19% 2 4.6 13,904 33.58 30 15 3 199 71% 20 67 4 150 21


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Appendix B: Participating G20 Leaders' Experience

Member Leader Summits Attended Summits Hosteda
Japan Shinzo Abe 6 G20 2019
Germany Angela Merkel 13 G20 2017
China Xi Jinping 6 G20 2016
Canada Justin Trudeau 4 G20 2010
India Narendra Modi 5 G20 2022
Turkey Recip Tayyip Erdogan 12 G20 2015
Argentina Mauricio Macri 3 G20 2018
Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman 2 G20 2020
EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker 5  
EU Council Donald Tusk 4  
Korea Moon Jae-in 2 G20 2010
United Kingdom Theresa May 3 G20 2009
France Emmanuel Macron 2 G20 2011
South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa 1  
Italy Giuseppe Conte 1  
Australia Scott Morrison 1 G20 2014
Indonesia Joko Widodo 4  
Brazil Jair Bolsonaro 0  
Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador 0 G20 2012
Russia Vladimir Putin   G20 2013
United States Donald Trump 2 G20 2008/9
International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde 7  
World Bank David Malpass 0  

Note: a Summits hosted by country, but not necessarily by the leader at the time of the Osaka Summit.

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Appendix C: G20 Agriculture Ministers' Commitments

Date Total
2008 Washington 0
2009 London 0
2009 Pittsburgh 0
2010 Toronto 0
2010 Seoul 0
2011 Cannes 29
2012 Los Cabos* 0
2013 St. Petersburg 0
2014 Brisbane 0
2015 Antalya 16
2016 Hangzhou 47
2017 Hamburg 29
2018 Buenos Aires  
2019 Osaka 15

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Appendix D: G20 Finance Ministers' Commitments

Date Total 2016 2017 2018 2019
Financial regulation 28 10 7 7 4
Macroeconomics 17 5 5 2 5
Taxation 11 1 5 1 4
International financial institutional reform 7   3   4
Crime and corruption 6   1   5
International cooperation 6 1 4   1
Terrorism 5 2 1 1 1
Debt 4       4
Trade 3 3      
Development 3 1 1   1
Climate change 2 2      
Energy 2 1 1    
Health 2 1     1
Digitization 1     1  
Total 107 27 28 12 30

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Appendix E: G20 Trade Ministers' Commitments, 2014–19

Date Total Standstill Rollback Services Growth Multilateral WTO G20 Institutions Governance Development
2014 4 1 1 1 1 - - -
2015 2 - - 1 - 1 - -
2016 14 1 - 2 3 2 3 3
2018 5 - - - 2 1 2 -
2019 15 -     4 -    

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Appendix F: G20 Digital Ministers' Commitments

Date Total
2017 24
2019 15
Total 39

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Appendix G: G20 Energy and Environment Ministers' Commitments

Date Total
Both ministerials 12
Energy ministers 39
Environment ministers 28
Total 79

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Appendix H: G20 Osaka Summit Agenda and Achievements

Data Free Flow with Trust


Climate Change






Quality Infrastructure for Development

Debt Sustainability and Transparency

Crime and Corruption


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