B20 Chairman Rifat Hisarcıklıoglu organized the Saudi Arabia Regional Consultation Forum today in Jeddah to explore the most pressing economic issues and policy priorities for businesses in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The event was the first of 11 meetings to be held in G20 countries including China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Russia.
“The purpose of today’s meeting is to gauge business priorities and feed these into the B20 policy recommendations we will make to G20 leaders at the end of the year,” said Mr Hisarcıklıoglu. “The Turkish B20 process is built on inclusivity – and we’re reaching out to businesses worldwide,” he said. Mr Hisarcıklıoglu is also a member of ICC’s Executive Board and G20 CEO Advisory Group, and he is President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey.
Putting trade at the top of the G20 agenda
In addition to gathering business priorities, the consultation was designed to increase interaction with key G20 government officials and to examine the G20’s agenda for 2015. Saudi Finance Minister, Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, participated in the opening session and spoke on the importance of implementing the country growth strategies agreed to at the G20 Brisbane Summit in November.
“The G20 must listen to the recommendations of the B20,” said Minister Abdulaziz. “[And], Saudi Arabia will do its best to implement these recommendations.”
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan also shared his views on the G20 policy agenda. He outlined the need for the G20 to increase confidence in global markets so that banks and other financial institutions have the confidence they need to increase investment flows. He also emphasized the importance of supporting the commercial engagement of small- and medium-sized businesses so that they can better contribute to economic growth.
Noting the importance of building on momentum from Brisbane on trade, Mr Babacan said: “Trade must be put at the top of the G20/B20 agenda; we must find ways to grow global trade to deliver economic growth and employment.”
The G20 must press the World Trade Organization to remove customs obstacles, tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
CEOs from the ICC G20 CEO Advisory Group participated in the consultations. Jamal J. Malaikah, President of Saudi Arabia’s National Petrochemical Industrial Company, called on the G20 to demonstrate the leadership needed to remove barriers to trade.
“The G20 must press the World Trade Organization (WTO) to remove customs obstacles, tariffs and non-tariff barriers,” said Mr Malaikah. He urged the WTO to strengthen country adherence to trade remedy agreements and review rules. “If these barriers aren’t addressed, we risk undermining the benefits of trade growth,” he said.
Another member of the ICC G20 CEO Group, Dr Naded Taher, CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank, highlighted the importance of investment in energy, including energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.
“There are profitable investment opportunities we can make in Saudi Arabia that can create jobs, boost income, develop capabilities in clean energy technology and promote environmental sustainability,” said Dr Taher.
Integrating MENA business input into the B20
The B20 policy-making process under the Turkish presidency was initiated in Istanbul on 9 February, where some 400 businesses gathered to begin constructing recommendations for consideration by B20 Leaders. B20 Sherpa Mr Sarp Kalkan is managing the B20 process this year, overseeing work on six task forces: trade, investment and infrastructure, employment, financing Growth, anticorruption and SME issues.
“The process of listening to business leaders today in Saudi Arabia is critical to our effectiveness in conveying the right business priorities to G20 leaders,” said Mr Kalkan. “It is essential that we engage Saudi and MENA businesses in the G20 policy agenda and properly integrate their views into the work of the six B20 task forces,” he said.
The meeting was co-organized by the Council of Saudi Chambers and the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ICC, through its G20 CEO Advisory Group, is serving as strategic partner to the B20 Turkey process and facilitated organization of the Jeddah event. Jeffrey Hardy, Director of the ICC G20 CEO Advisory Group moderated the interactive discussion on B20 policy priorities.
“The B20 is emerging as an increasingly critical voice of business on the G20 stage,” said Mr Hardy. “[ICC] has served as strategic partner to B20 national since Korea in 2010 and we’re pleased with the increasing responsiveness we’re getting from G20 Leaders.”
The 2015 G20 Leaders’ Summit will be held in Antalya on November 15-16 2015.
Learn more about ICC’s World Trade Agenda.