Economy & Trade, Financial Crisis, Global, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

Business20 Makes Its Weight Felt at G20 Meeting

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico, Apr 19 2012 (IPS) - The concerns of the business community basically monopolised the first day of the meeting of trade and economy ministers of the G20 group of industrialised and emerging countries in this Mexican resort city Thursday.

B20 press conference in Puerto Vallarta. Credit: World Economic Forum

B20 press conference in Puerto Vallarta. Credit: World Economic Forum

The meeting of global chief executives and chairmen held on the occasion of G20 summits, known as Business 20 (B20), handed the ministers a series of recommendations on issues like trade liberalisation, green growth, food sovereignty and energy, at the meeting in Puerto Vallarta, in the western state of Jalisco, 900 km from Mexico City.

And not only that: The corporate delegates were present at the minister’s deliberations on questions such as protectionism, fostering trade, and generating jobs.

“I have been at previous meetings, and this is the first time that I have seen the business representatives playing such an active role,” Alejandro Ramírez, a Mexican executive who owns the Cinépolis chain of movie theatres and who presided over the B20, said during the opening ceremony Thursday.

The G20 is made up of the members of the G8 leading industrialised countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States – along with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the European Union.

But the meeting in Puerto Vallarta, a city on Mexico’s Pacific coast that depends mainly on foreign tourism, also included representatives of Colombia and Peru, which are asking to join the group.

Lima will host the Latin American chapter of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2013.

The two-day ministerial meeting, which is taking place behind closed doors and without the presence of civil society, was preceded Monday through Wednesday by the Latin American chapter of the WEF, where business leaders and experts once again discussed the survival of capitalism, in the face of the global economic crisis that has hit rich countries particularly hard.

The business community’s participation was more marked at this year’s meeting than it was during the bloc’s summits in Seoul, South Korea in 2010 and Cannes, France in 2011.

The business sector has taken over the G20 agenda, as it demands solutions in the face of the crisis.

“Trade and investment have played a critical role in the last decade” to stimulate the economy, Martin Senn, CEO of Zürich Financial Services, said Thursday.

At the meeting, Mexico proposed analysing global value chains and the links between trade, economic growth, and employment. But the hot issue was undoubtedly Argentina’s recent decision to regain state control over the YPF oil company by seizing a 51 percent stake from Spain’s Repsol.

“Non-tariff barriers are more complex to identify,” Senn said. “The G20 must stand against protectionism. They have to revise the impact of measures like barriers to exports, sanitary and fito-sanitary and technical barriers.”

Trade in goods and services has already felt the blows of the economic crisis that broke out in the United States, which have been aggravated by Europe’s debt problems.

The World Trade Organisation forecasts a low level of growth in global trade this year, and a sluggish recovery.

The growing influence of corporations in meetings like this week’s G20 gathering has fuelled criticism by civil society organisations with respect to the legitimacy of these international forums.

The International Coalition Facing the G20, made up of organisations from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greece, Mexico and Peru, said in March that the bloc’s approach to tackling the crisis is based on the same paradigms and mind-set that gave rise to it in the first place.

The G20 obsessively promotes unlimited growth – now ironically called “green” – which not only undermines a healthy environment and the resources shared by the people, but also the rights of nature and the earth’s sustainability, the group’s declaration states.

In the Pacific resort town of Los Cabos in northwest Mexico, the presidents of the G20 countries will discuss issues like policies against the financial crisis; food security; green growth; and the fight against climate change at their Jun. 18-19 summit.

Presenting the B20’s recommendations, Guillermo Ortiz, a former governor of the state-owned Banco de México, suggested the denomination of trade in currencies other than the dollar.

“We are moving towards a multi-currency world, and this must also be reflected in the denomination of trade,” said the banker, who is now chairman of the Grupo Financiero Banorte.

“It’s important for economies like China to represent the weight of their countries in international trade,” he argued.

The business leaders also proposed the creation of an oversight panel to monitor which countries have lived up to the proposals and later debate the results.

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