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With six months to go until G20 summit in Osaka, Japan sets out its agenda

By Staff Writer
The Japan Times
January 25, 2019

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Group of 20 leaders gather for a photo in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30 on the opening day of their two-day summit. | KYODO

OSAKA - With six months to go until the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, the basic agenda has been set for discussion on issues of global importance.

But with the G20 process increasingly seen as failing and many leaders likely to arrive in Osaka with severe domestic political problems at home, what will come out of the summit in terms of new agreements to cooperate on issues ranging from climate change to sustainable development to strengthening multilateral free trade and investment is increasingly unclear.

On Dec. 1, as the G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires closed, Prime Minster Shinzo Abe outlined the agenda of what will be discussed when the leaders meet on June 28 and 29 in Osaka.

“At the G20 Osaka Summit, I will set our goal to materialize a free, open, and inclusive and sustainable future society and promote efforts to this end, through our development efforts centered on the sustainable development goals and contributions to addressing global issues, along with driving the world economy through the promotion of free trade and innovation as well as simultaneously achieving economic growth and inequality correction,” Abe told the other leaders.

Technological innovation, especially in artificial intelligence and robotics, is another area that Japan will ask world leaders to discuss, along with infrastructure development and global health care.

At a time when fossil fuels remain a major source of energy even as experts are warning that the Earth’s climate is warming far more rapidly than predicted just a few years ago, Abe said the Osaka summit would tackle energy and environment issues, although not from a purely environmental view.

“It’s necessary for us to actively incorporate private investments in these fields and create a virtuous cycle for the environment and growth, rather than seeing it as two choices between environmental conservation and economic growth,” Abe said.

However, Japan will make dealing with plastic waste in the world’s oceans, now a major environmental crisis, a topic of discussion with an eye toward possible new sources of funding and cooperation by the G20.

In terms of finance and trade, Finance Minister Taro Aso said in Buenos Aires that Japan’s G20 presidency throughout 2019 would focus on three themes, which will be the basis of discussions in Osaka. These include risks and challenges to the global economy and concrete actions to further medium-term growth potential. Most contentiously for G20 member states, they include policy responses to economic and social changes due to technological advancements and globalization of trade and investment.

“Support for an international order based on cooperation and openness, one that brought peace and higher prosperity to the world, is under strain, with growing dissatisfaction with economic inequality,” Aso said. “There is a serious risk that unless a commitment to international cooperation and openness is restored, the world will retreat to one that is closed and fragmented, which history has shown time and again leads to instability and perverse economic outcomes.”

“Japan has benefited perhaps more than any other nation from the cooperation and openness that has characterized the seven decades after the end of World War II. Japan has a responsibility and mission to protect the international order,” he said.

In Osaka, preparations for the event, which is expected to draw 30,000 attendees, are moving forward in the areas of public security for the leaders and public relations and support for the event itself.

Osaka police have been conducting antiterrorism drills. The prefectural government is also planning to ban drone flights in the vicinity of Intex Osaka, the waterfront venue where the leaders will meet, for the entire month of June. The area, with its wide open spaces, often attracts those who like to fly drones.

At the same time, recruitment has begun of local student volunteers, especially language volunteers. The business community is expected to use the occasion to promote a wide variety of Osaka and Kansai-area products.

For Gov. Ichiro Matsui and Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura, the priority at the G20 Summit is not pushing one particular international issue or even acting as sales agents for Osaka. It’s promoting the recently won 2025 World Expo and securing promises of attendance from as many of the G20 leaders as possible.

“The G20 Summit is an important opportunity to convey the ideals of the 2025 Expo to the world,” Matsui said in mid-December.

The G20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. In addition, Tokyo announced last week that leaders from another eight countries would be invited as guests. The leaders of Spain and Singapore have confirmed their attendance.

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