G20 Describes Path to Global Economic Recovery

The Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (“G20”) reviewed efforts to respond to “key economic challenges, as well as the progress . . . made since the beginning of this year.” The meeting was held over two days in Chengdu, China.

In a Communiqué issued at the end of the conference, the G20 members conveyed the following:

  • “The global recovery continues but remains weaker than desirable.” This is due in part to high financial market volatility and geopolitical conflicts, and to fluctuating commodity prices and low inflation, both of which could be prevented by sharing the benefits of growth within and among countries in order to promote inclusiveness.
  • The G20 will use “all policy tools – monetary, fiscal and structural – individually and collectively to achieve . . . strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.” Achieving that goal will involve making tax policy and public expenditure more “growth-friendly” by prioritizing high-quality investments.
  • Structural issues, such as excess capacity in certain industries, are “exacerbated by a weak global economic recovery and depressed market demand” and have affected trade and workers negatively.
  • Multilateral development banks (“MDBs”) have a “unique role in supporting infrastructure investment.” G20 has asked MDBs to undertake joint actions that support “quality infrastructure development, which aims to ensure economic efficiency in view of life-cycle cost, safety and resilience.”
  • The G20 supports the “continued effort to incorporate enhanced contractual clauses into sovereign bonds.”
  • The G20 prioritizes “building an open and resilient financial system,” by implementing the total-loss-absorbing-capacity standard and effective cross-border resolution regimes. Members will “continue to address systemic risk within the insurance sector,” along with “emerging risks and vulnerabilities in the financial system, including those associated with shadow banking, asset management and other market-based finance.”
  • The G20 recognizes “recent progress made on effective and widespread implementation of the internationally agreed standards on tax transparency.” The G20 recognizes the effectiveness of “tax policy tools in supply-side structural reform for promoting innovation-driven, inclusive growth, as well as the benefits of tax certainty to promote investment and trade.” The G20 will continue working on issues surrounding pro-growth tax policies and tax certainty.
  • G20 countries should participate in a “voluntary peer review of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.” Further, green financing must be increased if environmentally sustainable growth on a global scale is to be supported.

Lofchie Comment: Although the G20 Communiqué has no actual legal effect, the intellectual bent is clear: it supports globalism and government intervention while remaining either indifferent or hostile to private enterprise. The Communiqué begins with a recognition that the global economy is weak. It then pivots toward questions of infrastructure spending which inherently means either government spending or spending through international government agencies and “multilateral development banks.” The G20 seems to view private financing sources with suspicion and perhaps even hostility in its assessment of “vulnerabilities . . . associated with shadow banking, asset management and other market-based finance.”

The G20 stance on energy is that “green financing must be increased,” presumably, through additional government financing. At the same time, the G20 advocates for the reduction of “fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.” It is difficult to understand the policy implications of these statements. Wouldn’t governmental subsidies of green financing also encourage wasteful energy consumption? If, for example, you wanted to reduce energy consumption, wouldn’t you have to raise the cost of energy, instead of subsidizing its production?

According to the G20, tax collection must be improved while “pro-growth tax policies” are implemented. Again, it is difficult to understand what is being advocated here. Is this an argument for reduced taxes? The G20 says that it favors the use of “tax policy tools in supply-side structural reform for promoting innovation-driven, inclusive growth, as well as the benefits of tax certainty to promote investment and trade.” What does this mean? Who possibly could be against “innovation-driven, inclusive growth”? Or better yet, how about this incomprehensible line: “We launch the Global Infrastructure Connectivity Alliance to enhance the synergy and cooperation among various infrastructure connectivity programs in a holistic way.”

In a passage from the Communiqué that seems particularly problematic, the G20 observes that “fluctuating commodity prices and low inflation . . . could be prevented by sharing benefits of growth within and among countries to promote inclusiveness.” Perhaps this is true, but since the Democratic and Republican parties both seem to oppose further trade agreements, and likely are in favor of reevaluating established ones, it is unclear what part or political faction of the U.S. government would endorse the G20’s position.