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Three 'I's Influence G20's Discourse

Purvaja Modak, Research Fellow, International Relations – Geoeconomics, Centre for Public Policy Research
December 17, 2021

The three 'I's – Italy, Indonesia and India have now entered the troika group of countries of the Group of 20 (G20) – past president (Italy in 2021), current president (Indonesia in 2022) and future president (India in 2023) – that influence the discourse of the G20, the world's premier forum for dialogue and deliberations on issues of global economic governance, for three years in a row.

Indonesia assumed the G20 presidency for 2022 on December 1, 2021, after taking over from Italy at the final G20 Summit in Rome on October 31, 2021. India will assume the G20 presidency in 2023. It is the responsibility of the three 'I's to ensure continuity and consistency in the global agenda as the presidency moves from one country to another. For India, as part of the troika, its contributions to the G20 discourse will be important in 2022 as well, as it should ensure a smooth transition from Indonesia's leadership at the end of 2022.

The theme during the Italian presidency in 2021 was 'People, Planet, Prosperity', with a clear focus on crafting an internationally coordinated response to the pandemic, for immediate action and containment of the virus as well as rebuilding the first steps for a resilient future. Discussions on climate change dominated much of the Italian presidency, due to the impact of climate related issues on global health security and pandemics, and the COP26, which was held in the final month of Italy's presidency tenure. In the same light, taking on from Italy, Indonesia’s theme[1] of 'Recover Together, Recover Stronger', emphasizes the need to build strong partnerships and collaborations that will enable a strong and inclusive post-pandemic recovery process and build global resilience.

This time over, the aim is to achieve a stronger, resilient, and more sustainable world recovery. Indonesia has recognised the need for collective action and collaborations between the developed and developing world to counter the significant losses to the economy, health, and social well-being that the pandemic has brought. With the advent of new variants of the COVID-19 virus, the world is going into a flux again and needs stability, led by able leaders who can work towards common objectives.

Since Indonesia's presidency commences soon after the COP26 summit[2], there will be discussions throughout the year on the actions taken by member countries to honour their climate commitments made in Glasgow.

It is thus a historic moment for Indonesia to host its first G20 presidency and successfully fulfil a global role of this kind with responsibility and integrity. It will be a unique opportunity for the country to craft the agenda, speak at the global negotiating table and bring the voice of developing countries, emerging economies and island nations into the room at such a vulnerable time. This is more crucial now than ever, particularly to ensure pandemic preparedness and a coordinated global response strategy for future pandemics. Interdisciplinary policy action across health, economy, energy, infrastructure, education and global governance is the need of the hour. To that effect, Indonesia has listed the following issues as priority[3] during its presidency year:

  1. Strengthening global health architecture and bringing equality to global health standards, not only in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also to ensure preparedness against potential pandemics in the future.
  2. Supporting rapid digital transformation in developed and developing countries to build resilient economies and efficient financial systems.
  3. Pursuing energy transitions in tandem with energy security, accessibility, and affordability.

While discussions on these issues have been on the global economic governance agenda for many years, especially on the Saudi Arabian (2020) and Italian agenda, they are particularly important for developing countries and emerging market economies and it will be a feather in Indonesia's cap if the country, under its presidency, can deliver constructive outcomes on some of these issues.

Through these three pillars, Indonesia will continue to take the lead on ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and supporting the global COVAX initiative. It will also continue to promote sustainable and inclusive economic development through MSME participation and work on women empowerment.

Work on the agenda of the Indonesian presidency is already underway, with the commencement of the first Sherpa Meeting in Jakarta and the first Finance and Central Bank Deputies Meeting in Bali on December 9-10, 2021.

A successful G20 presidency will be a big test of credibility and power for Indonesian President Joko Widodo, especially since his foreign policy is often regarded as inward looking. Indonesia will get a chance to showcase its economic resilience, its ability to navigate the global policy discourse and carry out negotiations that culminate in solid outcomes. Without that, there will definitely be doubts in the minds of the international strategic community on the ability of emerging market economies to lead such important presidencies in the future. It will impact the global opinion on India's ability as well.

Indonesia must ensure that strategic ambitions and bilateral tensions do not cloud out global governance objectives. In fact, Indonesia will face an uphill battle in ensuring that the strategic competition among large economies like the US, China and Russia can be converted into constructive and healthy outcomes during its G20 year.

To ensure a smooth presidency, Indonesia, followed by India must create an enabling environment for frank dialogue and collaborations among the various stakeholders on pressing global issues related to the economy and development to achieve an all-inclusive response and workable outcomes.

Indonesia's presidency will be crucial for India as it is another Asian country that is getting a chance to influence the global governance agenda for the first time ever.

Different ministries of the Indian government have already begun preparations to host this presidency – namely the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of External Affairs, Reserve Bank of India. The Indian government is holding continuous deliberations and discussions with different engagement groups like the Business 20 (B20), the Thinktank 20 (T20), to craft an agenda that aligns India's national goals and strengths to its global ambitions.

Some issues that India can lead include –

India can further its 'Neighbourhood First Policy' by inviting some neighbouring countries of the BIMSTEC as well as countries of the ASEAN and IORA as special invitees.

India must also have contingency plans in place to effectively alter the focus of its presidency in the advent of another pandemic, health crisis or global emergency, much like when Saudi Arabia's 2020 presidency suddenly became pandemic focussed, even after three months of announcing their priorities for the year or when Turkey in 2015 changed its narrative to focus on terrorism and its proliferation when bomb blasts gripped Paris, just a few days before the final summit, without having much emphasis on the issue throughout its presidency year. The ability to act swiftly in the wake of an impending global emergency to reshape the global agenda according to the changing world scenario will contribute to India's success as a first-time leader of the G20.

The G20, post-Covid, needs to do three things and it is the onus of the current troika – the three 'Is' – Italy, Indonesia and India to ensure that these issues are given priority.

First, it needs to lead with example and with credible global leaders at its helm. Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi have a very crucial responsibility to leave the imprint of their presidency year on the G20's discourse. They also have a unique opportunity to generate outcomes that will restore faith in the multilateral system, at a time when the world is exceedingly becoming protectionist and countries are exploring inward looking policies.

Second, the G20, through its member countries, must make equitable vaccine rollouts an immediate priority and must trigger global discussions and guide negotiations to ensure that patent waivers for vaccines are fair and all inclusive. It is the responsibility of the three 'I's to push this issue at the G20 discussions.

Third, the G20 must also strengthen its partnership with international organisations like the IMF, OECD, WHO, World Bank and WTO, and involve them in negotiating and writing global rules and overseeing their implementation and monitoring thereafter.

The stage is set, and Indonesia's moment has arrived. Italy has fulfilled its role and India is already in preparation. Scholars of global governance and multilateralism will watch with bated breath if Indonesia can prove that developing countries are also capable enough to lead the world's premier forum for global economic and financial policies, making way for India to follow suit and leave its mark, or whether 2022 will be a washout year, leading to further questions on the effectiveness and credibility of the G20 as a forum.

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[1] https://g20.org/

[2] https://ukcop26.org/cop26-goals/

[3] https://g20.org/

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Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.
Reprinted from CPPR with permission.

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Purvaja Modak is a Research Fellow, International Relations – Geoeconomics at CPPR. Her research focuses on issues of global economic governance, international trade and finance, economic diplomacy and multilateral financial institutions. Prior to joining CPPR, she was a Researcher for Geoeconomic Studies and the Manager of the Research Office at Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, a Mumbai based foreign policy think tank.. She was a fellow at the 2nd G20 Global Leadership Programme 2019, hosted by the Korean Development Institute (KDI) and the Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance. Purvaja has also held Research Assistant and Research Associate positions in her academic departments at both Bachelors and Masters levels. She has also interned at Reliable Investments, an exclusive franchisee of Motilal Oswal Securities Ltd. She holds a Masters degree in Economics (MA) from the University of Mumbai with a focus on international trade, finance and regional monetary arrangements and a Bachelors Degree in Economics (BA) from Jai Hind College, Mumbai.

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