Amid mounting nationalism, business calls for global cooperation on trade, climate action

  • 2 May 2017

At the B20 Summit in Berlin, Germany this week, global business presented recommendations to the G20, urging governments towards greater international cooperation.

At a time of increasing protectionist sentiment and global policy uncertainty, over 700 companies and business associations from G20 countries have called on their governments to further cooperate on a host of pressing issues—from promoting an open and inclusive trading system to combating climate change.

The private sector representatives descended on Berlin this week for a round of meetings known as the B20 Summit—the official G20 dialogue for the global business community. B20 participants work together throughout the year to develop a set of recommendations to the G20 on topics ranging from digitalisation to responsible business conduct.

The B20 recommendations were presented to German Chancellor Angela Merkel this year, who is presiding over the G20 in 2017.

“It is essential that business plays a key role in tackling the challenges and opportunities G20 countries collectively face,” said ICC Secretary General John Danilovich. “The B20 Summit shows that we are committed to creating an inclusive and sustainable global economy together.”

Political risks

This week’s B20 Summit comes at a pivotal moment as recent political trends have led to an increase in protectionism, threatening the trade-led growth that has led G20 countries to unprecedented levels of economic prosperity.

“It has never been more important to forge a constructive dialogue for inclusive growth,” John Danilovich said. “The economic and environmental issues we face are global in nature and will require international cooperation and resolve to be met head on.”

The share of G20 imports affected by trade-restrictive measures put in place since the global financial crisis has continued to rise, reaching 6.5% in November 2016, according to a recent report from the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Populist trends in G20 countries also risk endangering the United Nations’ Paris Agreement—last year’s landmark global deal on climate change under which 195 countries pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States—the world’s second largest polluter—rolled back an array of domestic regulations aimed at containing emissions levels last March and has yet to state whether they will withdraw from the Paris deal or not.

At the B20 Summit, global business urged G20 governments to implement the Paris Agreement and to reaffirm their commitment to open and inclusive trade.

A global economy geared towards the future

If governments reinforce their commitment to setting common rules for trade, investment, data flows, and migration, their efforts could dramatically spur economic growth and job creation. Aligning these efforts with sustainable development objectives such as the UN’s Global Goals would help ensure the global economy is geared towards the future.

Reorienting the global economy around open trade and sustainable development objectives would unlock an estimated US$ 12 trillion of market opportunities in a range of sectors, according to a 2017 report from the Business and Sustainable Development Commission.

Sectors based on e-commerce are already booming despite being held back by the absence of almost any global rules. A multilateral agreement on digital trade could fuel unparalleled job creation among small- and medium-sized companies.

“This new stage of globalisation – or global integration – offers both great opportunities and major new challenges,” said ICC Vice-Chairman John Denton. “It is going to require a superior level of advocacy and decision making from leaders at all levels, and the G20 will play a crucial role in this.”