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    What will Erdoğan, Putin, Obama and Merkel discuss in Antalya?

    Güven Sak, PhD23 October 2015 - Okunma Sayısı: 1079

    The G20 comes to Turkey mid-November this year. As you know, Turkey chairs the G20 this year. World leaders will be meeting in Antalya in three weeks but I don’t sense any buzz around.  Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama will be in Antalya. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also come to Turkey three weeks after her prior visit. President Erdoğan will be hosting them. And what will they do in Turkey? What will they discuss?

    The G20 was born out of a need precipitated by the globalization process. As all the countries in the world started to resemble one another with globalization and the coordination among the G7 countries failed to suffice to manage the world, the G20 emerged. The G20 sort of comprises of the G7 plus the BRICS plus the MIKTA. G7 included Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. Add BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. That makes 12. When the remaining countries felt like outcasts they started to come together under the name MIKTA. That includes Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia. Nowadays these countries also seek to conjure up a role for themselves as well. That makes 17 countries altogether. Include Argentina, Saudi Arabia and the European Union, they add up to 20. The weight stems not from the size of the national income but rather the status of the country within the system.

    So what will Erdoğan, Obama, Merkel and Putin discuss in Antalya?

    The first thing that comes to your mind is the Syrian crisis and the menace called ISIS, isn’t it? That’s what happens every time anyway. Australia chaired the G20 last year. The summit was in Brisbane. The Ukraine crisis was in its heyday. The Russians had just invaded Crimea. In the previous term, Russia chaired the G20. The summit was in St. Petersburg. The Syrian civil war obviously topped the agenda. When the world leaders gather together, a series of current affairs naturally force themselves through the gates. The fact that the refugee crisis featured in Erdoğan’s speech a few days ago at the 12th Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP12) is a contemporary signal about the agenda of debate at the G20 summit. But there is already a deeper agenda of the G20 beyond the current affairs. Let me say a few words about that agenda first, and then make a few remarks about the relevance of the G20 agenda.

    There are three main issues of concern for the world nowadays. That’s how I see it. First, the growth rate of the world is faltering once again. We are yet to witness a high-pace growth trend in the wake of the 2008 crisis. This is what the G20 focused on last year. But there are no concrete results, to be honest. The global economy would supposedly pace up via infrastructure investments. But even an infrastructure investment program is nowhere to be found yet. Will it come out of this summit? We’ll wait and see.

    But look at the picture here. The American economy has yet to make it out of the oxygen tent. It’s like a patient that can’t breathe on its own. The fall in oil prices has hit Russia. And it will continue to hit it further. Russia is on the offensive not because of its strength, but because of its weakness. Meanwhile, China has become a massive economy with USD7500 per capita income. Its growth rate is on the slide due to the base effect. There are grave concerns as to how countries like us will be affected when the American economy starts to breathe on its own. And why? The American economy had never been admitted to the oxygen tent before. But we have witnessed that. Now we will witness for the first time what it will be like when it comes out. Possible scenarios are not promising for the developing countries. They are not promising at all for countries like Turkey who haven’t prepared for the test. So will a debate on a global safety net and an effort for coordination come out of this. It would help us id it did, to tell the truth.

    The second fundamental issue this year will likely be climate change and sustainable development. Not because the G20 is keenly interested in the issue, but because UN’s COP21 meeting will be held in Paris another three weeks after the Antalya Summit, also due in three weeks. A historic agreement on climate change is expected to come out of the Paris summit. The issue of development has gained particular significance due to the Syrian refugee crisis too. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, attending the inauguration ceremony of the United Nations in New York this year, stressed that the solution to the issue of Syrian refugees is related to the improvement of the living conditions in their own countries, i.e. to development. She sort of said those who do not want refugees in their countries should pay attention to global development issues. As we expect Germany to chair the G20 in 2017, I feel we may expect the process of devising a G20 agenda initiated by Turkey that takes into consideration the problems of “the others,” and is more sensitive to development issues may continue with China in 2016 and Germany in 2017 so that the G20 ultimately has a more relevant agenda for the developing countries.

    The third issue will likely be the acknowledgement of the significance of technological change by the G20. The word “internet” has not been able to make it to the text of any G20 declaration so far. It looks like it may this year in one way or another. Secure internet and cyber-security measures have now become a serious national security issue. I will not go to the direct and indirect effects of the internet and digitalization in the economy, which we can hardly even measure in a reliable way. It looks like these will make it into the debates, whether from a security aspect or in terms of its importance for economic growth.

    So what’s missing? I think the most significant issues in the field of technological change are technology transfers and the diffusion of knowledge and technology. If an agreement could be reached on an international mechanism of technology transfers, it would bring a solution to many basic problems in sustainability. If the transfer of technologies to reduce carbon emissions was facilitated, if there was a technological renovation in all the industries of countries like ours, everyone would win. But the world doesn’t change as fast though.

    It looks like the issues this year will be Syrian refugees, sustainable development, the internet an the slowdown in global growth. Let’s wait and see.

    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 23.10.2015.

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