Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has spoken, and Turkey will steer its own course on the G20 in 2015. Delivering the closing address in the two-day G20 Brisbane Pre-Summit conference, Davutoglu has left no doubt the 2015 G20 presidency will be a philosophical, symbolic and practical move away from the 'narrow agenda focused on economic fundamentals' that the Australian presidency has championed.
His speech was generous in its praise of the 'excellent G20 presidency and platform that Australia has set for Turkey', and a recognition of a 'great friendship and mature relationship' between the two countries just 100 years after the events of the Gallipoli. It was a strong reminder of the G20's power to strengthen relationships between its members.
The most striking aspect of the remarks was on the need for the G20 to develop a clear 'ontological position' on its ability to tackle truly global issues, rather than just those that affect G20 economies. This would have come as music to the ears of critics of the focused Australian agenda, who have been calling for a greater sense of soul to be added to the hard-headed economics.
This is perhaps clearest with Davutoglu's powerful rhetoric on climate change: 'on most issues we act as the heads of nation states, but on climate change we should act as the ministers of home affairs of humanity' in dealing with 'the biggest challenge to all of humanity'. Davutoglu also received repeated applause for his statements about the need to look at the links between economic and political issues. There was recognition that, in an interconnected world, 'good things and bad things are spreading', which meant that issues such as pandemics and health emergencies had a natural place in G20 discussions.
In all, Turkey will pursue a highly ambitious seven priorities in 2015:
- Development: Turkey's first focus will be on inclusive development, and Davutoglu stressed that the G20 needs to be more agile and responsive to those challenges that prevent less developed countries from becoming fully integrated into the global economy.
- Trade: Davutoglu called for a reinvigoration of the multilateral trading system, and lent his support to the pursuit of the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement, dismissed the idea that 'exports are good and imports are bad', and echoed OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria's comments from earlier in the conference about the growing role of global value chains.
- Employment: Davutoglu's emphasis on ensuring that economic growth was accompanied by the creation of quality jobs that also allowed women and young people to enter the workforce resonates in the context of the 2014 G20 agenda.
- SMEs: Turkey will also seek to focus on issues affecting small and medium enterprises, and entrepreneurship. The incoming B20 Sherpa, Rifat Hisarcıklıoglu, said earlier in the conference that the voice of SMEs needed to be heard, and that the B20 will pursue an SME and entrepreneurship working group next year.
- Investment: Davutoglu called for greater cooperation between development banks and supported the Australian presidency's focus on facilitating more private sector investment.
- Energy: Davutoglu said one-fifth of the world is without electricity, and he appeared to be repositioning the energy agenda to have more of a development focus next year.
- Climate change: Davutoglu stressed the need for leaders to provide high level direction for climate change negotiations, in a way that contributes to the UNFCCC process.
Aside from these priorities, Turkey will continue to push on with the multi-year agenda items that have been a focus of a lot of discussion over the course of 2014, such as tax and growth strategies.
It is going to be a busy year, commencing with the first Sherpas' and B20 meetings in mid-December.
Time will tell whether trying to combat so many issues will be effective. Recent history suggests that Turkey is facing a tough battle. For all the opinions expressed that the G20 should focus on particular issues, the Australian presidency has been praised for refocusing the G20 this year. It would be most unfortunate if, by not managing the agenda carefully, 2015 undermines these hard-won gains.