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Hamburg 2017: Will Germany Complete the Missing Pieces from Hangzhou?

Maria Marchyshyn, G20 Research Group
October 16, 2016

The 2016 Hangzhou Summit, held for the first time by the Asian powerhouse China, has come and gone. Now the world's attention turns to Germany as it begins the process of preparing to host the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 7-8, 2017. German chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated China on the success of the Hangzhou Summit, saying its theme and results will be echoed by the vision of the Hamburg Summit.

Yet Hangzhou was a missed opportunity to introduce much needed initiatives to address pressing global economic, security and social challenges. In the words of Tristram Sainsbury of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, unfortunately "the narrative about the G20 as 'good during the crisis' but less relevant over time will persist." Even though China will be remembered for the gesture of inviting the greatest number of developing countries in the summit's short history, Hangzhou achieved little in terms of development issues and even less in promoting inclusive growth, a key summit theme.

Hangzhou also missed its highly opportune timing to take a strong stance on climate change and fossil fuel subsidies, especially as this was the first G20 meeting after the Paris Agreement and could have served as a way to encourage its ratification. Despite China and the United States announcing they would ratify Paris just before the summit, the other G20 members have yet to follow. As G20 deliberations on this crucial topic now shift to Germany, a long-time proponent of green energy and technology, it is likely this issue will be given proper attention at Hamburg.

Implications for Germany's Hosting Year

Hangzhou has left a great deal of work for Merkel, a leader who has attended many summits and has hosted the G7/8 summit twice. This will be the first time, however, that Germany will host the G20 summit. Germany is definitely not expected to do anything resembling the surprisingly shocking U.S. aircraft staircase gaff that happened in China.

Merkel will again be faced with the continuing and familiar issues plaguing the current global economy — problems of low growth, high unemployment, slowing trade, protectionism, a corporate sector unwilling to invest, and persistent and unresolved inequalities in financial architecture institutions. Tax transparency and corruption will also be prominent on the agenda. Additionally, next year the G20 will have a new U.S. president attending the summit. And depending on who will be elected as the leader, the world and the G20 might be facing a new more unilateral and protectionist reality.

On the economy, Noe Van Hulst, the Netherlands ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, noted at Hangzhou a subtle shift in emphasis toward medium- and long-term structural economic policies and away from the doctrine of austerity. With Germany one of the strongest opponents of an active fiscal policy its position on this issue is still unclear.

On development, according to Merkel, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were an important part of deliberations during the Hangzhou Summit and will also feature largely during the German presidency. Merkel has indicated that health (SDG 3) will receive more attention: "During our Presidency we will also look in depth at health, firstly with a view to resistance to antibiotics and secondly in terms of how the global community can respond better to international pandemics thanks to the experience gained with Ebola."

Germany has also chosen migration and regional security as priorities. The issue is complex and requires considerable political capital and nuance. For Europe, which has recently faced a significant rise in terrorist attacks, the migration issue is more than just a humanitarian issue; it is a security one too. As Germany is working closely with the United States and Russia to achieve a cease-fire in Syria, the conflict and its aftermath are certainly expected to appear on the 2017 Hamburg agenda. Germany will likely call on the G20 to agree on refugee resettlement efforts and for G20 members to make practical contributions to solve this problem, which is now not only limited to Germany and the European Union but has quickly became a global issue.

With regards to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Merkel stated at Hangzhou that "all sides affirm their commitment to the Minsk agreements, but nothing has actually happened at operational level; for that we need Ukraine too." This indicates that the Ukrainian president could be invited as a guest to the Hamburg Summit to achieve more concrete solutions in resolution of this conflict.

Finally, the biggest challenge that Germany faces will be to send the world a strong message that despite Brexit, the European Union remains strong, stable and united.

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Maria MarchyshynMaria Marchyshyn is a researcher for the G20 Research Group, the G7 Research Group and the BRICS Research Group and has been involved with them since 2008. Her work focuses on macroeconomic issues, including international trade and finance and topics regarding the European Union. She has worked on compliance reports, and currently specializes on summit conclusions on a wide range of topics. She has attended the 2014 Brussels Summit as a member of the G7 Research Group field team. Maria is the Vice President of Finance with the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT). She has worked in the financial industry and as a researcher at the European Parliament in Brussels. She speaks five languages and is currently learning her sixth, Japanese. Maria completed an honours degree in International Business Administration (IBBA) with specialization in finance at the Schulich School of Business at York University in 2004.

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