Stakes are high as the Group of Twenty (G20) prepares for its November 2020 Summit in Saudi Arabia. The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a systemic shock to the social and economic fabric of countries around the world. Leaders in business and government are grappling with fluctuating health restrictions—including a new round of lockdowns in many countries—while trying to establish long-term priorities for rebuilding economies.
The crisis has made dialogue between public and private sector leaders more important than ever and the G20 is arguably the world’s most important forum. The Summit brings together leaders from every continent and its members represent 80% of world economic output, two-thirds of the global population, and three-quarters of international trade.
While the G20 Presidency is currently held by Saudi Arabia, due to the pandemic all meetings planned to take place in Riyadh will now occur virtually on November 21-22. Sectoral consultative bodies have been meeting throughout the year to provide recommendations that will inform the high-level conversations by government leaders.
One of these is the Business Twenty (B20), the official G20 dialogue platform with the business community. This body has taken on renewed importance this year since business will be crucial to the post-COVID economic recovery. On September 2, the B20 co-hosted a joint virtual event with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Business at OECD, a global business network representing over seven million companies, to explore the path forward.
Discussions at the meeting focused on the recommendations of the B20 Special Report to G20. Participants agreed that governments need to work together and be more agile in responding to rapidly changing circumstances while supporting the global market-based economy. Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD, emphasized the importance of the G20 and multilateralism in shaping the global economy of the future.
In addition, governments should work together to promote integrity in the public and private sector as well as in global trade. Importantly, business leaders asserted that extraordinary government actions taken during the pandemic should be temporary. Participants agreed that COVID-19-related emergency regulations should be time-limited by default and subject to clear performance indicators that trigger their termination.
B20 Saudi Arabia Chair Yousef Al-Benyan noted, “the world is facing an urgent need to…cooperate in the face of the current COVID-19 crisis,” and added that “[while] the global business community has taken significant steps to redesign operating models and…to adapt to this new normal…it’s [also] critical that we also don’t lose sight of the long-term issues that the world must prepare for now.”
These issues include fighting corruption in supply chains and procurement. Consequently, the G20 is organizing an Anti-Corruption Ministerial Meeting on October 22. This will be the first ministerial level meeting on anti-corruption in G20 history and will be co-chaired by Blair Glencorse, Founder and Executive Director of the Accountability Lab.
Lastly, the event delved deeper into the B20 recommendations to the G20 captured in the special report, Jump-Starting the Global Economy in a Post Covid-19 Phase. The six policy recommendations are wide-ranging and include goals that are essential to building back and improving the integrity and inclusivity of economies after the pandemic:
As an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a longstanding promoter of both democratic governance and a vibrant private sector, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) actively supports many of the B20’s recommendations.
These recommendations align with the outcomes of an August 13 virtual dialogue hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and B20 Saudi Arabia. At this event, U.S. Chamber CEO and Co-Chair of the B20 Trade & Investment Task Force Thomas J. Donohue emphasized that “strong global alliances are critical to keep supply chains stable and secure and keep trade flowing.”
Participants at the dialogue discussed how COVID-19 has fast-tracked the digital transition and accelerated the growth of fintech, a sector that remains limited by inconsistent and incompatible regulations.
Separately, CIPE’s work through the Global Trade Facilitation Alliance (GATF) aligns with B20 recommendations on digitization and trade facilitation. Plans for the post-COVID recovery have renewed emphasis on encouraging long-term inclusive growth benefiting disadvantaged groups such as women and minorities.
CIPE’s experience shows that inclusive growth and trade facilitation can work hand-in-hand. CIPE’s past work shows that equitable access to digital skills and supportive regulatory frameworks can expand the benefits of trade, especially to marginalized groups and small businesses.
CIPE’s contributions to broader G20 and B20 consultations are also relevant. For the B20 Integrity & Compliance Task Force, CIPE helped articulate recommendations for (1) building a culture of high integrity supported by robust national anti-corruption plans, (2) beneficial ownership data sharing, and (3) reforms in public procurement.
CIPE has also emphasized the need to improve governance and address corruption risks in state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The Task Force recommendations noted that governments can enhance integrity and transparency by improving oversight of SOEs, working more closely with the private sector, and creating mechanisms that hold public officials accountable for misconduct.
CIPE and its partners, including the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies to Support Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), will continue their involvement in G20 processes via B20, T20, as well as other sectoral groups such as Women 20 (W20) and Civil Society 20 (C20). Through October, CIPE and its partners will lend their expertise on governance, integrity, and equal access to economic opportunity through presentations at various sectoral events and will participate as the groups continue to meet and discuss pressing issues.
These consultative processes—and implementation of their recommendations by G20 members and beyond—are crucially important for strengthening trust in business and governments. The global COVID-19 crisis has exposed the need for multilateral initiatives. As countries work to put their economies back on track and generate more inclusive growth, businesses and governments must work together to show leadership and find solutions.
CIPE and its partners will continue to work toward realizing goals represented by the recommendations to the G20 and build trust in responsible businesses and governments.
Anna Kompanek is the Director for Global Programs at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)