G20 Brisbane Summit, 2014: some keynotes – part I

by Leonardo Ramos

In November 15-16, 2014, the Group of Twenty (G20) will meet at Brisbane, Australia, in a continuous effort to stabilize and reform the global financial architecture that remits to G8 initiative in the end of 1990s – 1999 – (to cope with Asian Financial Crisis) and, more recently, in 2008 (and the 2007-2008 financial crisis). Since then, G20 is a key element in what I call “G7/8 system” (Ramos, 2013) and, broadly speaking, is generally seen as a key element on global economic governance –despite the disagreements concerning its real accomplishments and results.

by Leonardo Ramos[i]

[i] Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the PUC Minas and co-director of the Middle Power Research Group (http://potenciasmedias.com/).

In November 15-16, 2014, the Group of Twenty (G20) will meet at Brisbane, Australia, in a continuous effort to stabilize and reform the global financial architecture that remits to G8 initiative in the end of 1990s – 1999 – (to cope with Asian Financial Crisis) and, more recently, in 2008 (and the 2007-2008 financial crisis). Since then, G20 is a key element in what I call “G7/8 system” (Ramos, 2013) and, broadly speaking, is generally seen as a key element on global economic governance –despite the disagreements concerning its real accomplishments and results.

Besides that, since the inflexion that occurred with its transformation from only a ministers’ meeting to include a leaders’ meeting, it is possible to note, at the same time, a transformation in its agenda setting: G20 agenda has passed through an outreach process, including themes that were not considered at first by the group.

Exercising its prerogatives, Australian presidency established the summit agenda, focusing two main themes: (i) “promoting stronger economic growth and employment outcomes” and (ii) “making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks” (G20, 2014, p. 3). To meet these aims, Australia is calling G20 countries to boost economic growth by 2 per cent. Of course such themes will be discussed at the leaders’ summit; nevertheless, some crucial events of world politics and some preliminary meetings call attention to some issues that can probably influence the summit, as well as shed light on the way that such themes can be approached and the processes, linkages and relationships that lie behind them.

First, Ukraine and Crimea Crisis.

The crisis that erupted and intensified in the beginning of this year in Crimea had serious consequences to the G7/8 system. In March, G7 Leaders publicized a statement (G7, 2014a) and a declaration (G7, 2014b) condemning Russia’s involvement in such crisis and returning with G7 format – refusing to participate at the previously accorded G8 summit in Sochi and organizing a new one, G7 summit, in Brussels (June 4-5), when such condemnation was reinforced (G7, 2014c, §24-29).

The crisis did not end, and in July the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine. At such moment, the main suspects were Russian-backed separatists using a Russian missile and, to aggravate the situation, among the passengers were 37 Australian citizens and residents (Mosendz, 2014). Hence, Australian public opinion pressed their Prime Minister Tony Abbott to exclude Putin from the Brisbane summit. However, Russia exclusion is not so simple: due to G20 informal character, with no rules on membership and decisions based on consensus, Russia exclusion would have find support among G20 leaders – a similar path followed by G7 decision. But opinions are more divergent among G20 members: BRICS foreign ministers, for example, produced a joint statement saying that Russia should not be excluded from the Brisbane Summit (BRICS Foreign Ministers, 2014), followed by the BRICS leaders that condemned the sanctions imposed to Russia at their summit on July 16 (BRICS, 2014) – and such divergence become explicit at the finance ministers meeting, in September, when Julie Bishop, Australia Foreign Minister, sound out other countries opinion about it and confirmed the lack of consensus (G1, 2014). In any case, such topic will probably emerge at the Brisbane Summit.


Until October 7 there was no mention in the G20 official website to those terms – neither in its internet search engine. According to some analysts and politicians, G20 should pay attention mainly – and if would be possible, only – to economic issues. If it makes any sense, hence it will be closely related to a kind of “division of labour” which has been in march since the 2007-2008 financial crisis: by one side, G20 consolidation as the premier forum for global economic governance issues; and by the other side, G8 (now G7) as the place where security issues could be discussed between great powers from the west (G7 Foreign Ministers, 2014). This “division of labour” would help to understand Russia exclusion from the G8 and its maintenance of Russia in the G20. Nonetheless, two more points are relevant: first, addressing the UN General Assembly (September, 24), US president Obama declare that economic sanctions against Russia could be suspended if Russia compromises itself with a diplomatic and pacific resolution of Crimean Crisis (RIA Novosti, 2014). Well, this declaration could be understood as a sign of an intention, from US, to linkage these issues – Crimean Crisis and ISIS and US intervention –, trying to work coercion and consensus in international level; second, it must be remembered some elements of G20 operation; particularly, its troika system. In order to ensure continuity and a kind of institutional memory, the previous, current and future G20 hosts make up a troika – in this case, Russia (2013), Australia (2014) and Turkey (2015). This is crucial, once the last president and the next one are both key actors on ISIS/IS/ISIL issue. Once it is obvious that host a G20 summit is a great opportunity to influence such process and its agenda setting, on the other hand, the latter elements, as well as the systemic relevance of such issue calls attention to the fact that it will probably appear during the leaders’ summit – and we cannot forget the fact that ISIS is also an Australian and Turkish concern (ABC, 2014; Anadolu Agency, 2014a & 2014b).

In this sense, evidences strongly suggest that, despite G20 historical focus on economic issues, security concerns should influence the next summit in Australia. If it occurs, it will not be a novelty – in fact, it will be a sequence of the last summit, in St. Petersburg (2013), where US president Obama tried to use G20 summit to build an international coalition to cope with Syria crisis but find some resistance – from Russia, for example (BBC, 2013). Since the summit will not be host by Russia again, it will be interesting to see the possible linkages that could be built between the above-mentioned issues – Ukraine and Crimea Crisis and ISIS/IS/ISIL.

Nevertheless, despite their relevance, other issues can also reverberate in Brisbane Summit. The next post will explore two of them: the meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, in Cairns, 20-21 September; and the meeting of G20 Trade Ministers, in Sydney, July 19.



 ABC. Islamic State: Prime Minister Tony Abbott to attend United Nations Security Council meeting to address terrorism threat. 12 September 2014. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-11/abbott-to-attend-un-security-council-meeting/5737940

Anadolu Agency. Turkey G20 presidency to help poor countries: Babacan. 20 September 2014a. http://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/392453–turkey-g20-presidency-to-help-poor-countries-babacan

Anadolu Agency. Turkey to play ‘constructive’ role in anti-ISlL coalition. 26 September 2014b. http://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/395891–turkey-to-play-constructive-role-in-anti-isll-coalition

BBC. G20 ‘divided’ on Syria as Power criticises Russia. 6 September 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23982181

BRICS Foreign Ministers. Chairperson’s Statement on the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting. 24 March 2014. http://www.dfa.gov.za/docs/2014/brics0324.html.

CURRY, Bill. Australia prepares to host G20 summit. The Globe and Mail. 2 July 2014. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/australia-prepares-to-host-g20-summit/article19437717/

G1. G20 dividido sobre veto a Putin na cúpula de Brisbane em novembro. 21 September 2014. http://g1.globo.com/economia/noticia/2014/09/g20-dividido-sobre-veto-putin-na-cupula-de-brisbane-em-novembro.html

G7. Statement by G7 leaders on Ukraine. 24 March 2014a. http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/summit/2014sochi/ukraine_140312.html

G7. The Hague Declaration. 24 March 2014b http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/summit/2014brussels/hague_140324.html

G7 G7 Brussels Summit Declaration. Brussels, 5 June 2014c. http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/summit/2014brussels/declaration.html

G7 Foreign Ministers. G7 Foreign Ministers’ Statement, Joint Action to Fight the Terrorist Organisation ISIL/DAESH. New York, 25 September 2014. http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/foreign/formin140925-isil.html

G20. G20 2014: overview of Australia’s presidency. 2014. https://www.g20.org/sites/default/files/g20_resources/library/2014%20Brisbane/G20Australia2014conceptpaper.pdf

G20 Labour and Employment Ministers. G20 Labour and Employment Ministers declaration. 10-11 September 2014. https://www.g20.org/sites/default/files/g20_resources/library/2014%20LEMM%20Declaration.pdf.

G20 Trade Ministers. Chairman’s summary metting of G20 Trade Ministers. 19 July 2014. https://www.g20.org/sites/default/files/g20_resources/library/20140720-Chair-Summary-TMM-Syd.pdf

New York Times. Wrong Turn on Syria: No Convincing Plan. 23 September 2014.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/opinion/on-syria-no-convincing-plan.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=1

MOSENDZ, Polly. Angry Australian Prime Minister Aims to Remove Russia from G-20 Summit.  2014. http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/07/australia-aims-to-remove-russia-from-g-20-summit/374748/

RAMOS, Leonardo. Hegemonia, revolução passiva e globalização: o sistema G7/8. Belo Horizonte: Ed. Pucminas, 2013.

RIA Novosti. Obama levantará las sanciones si Rusia se compromete con el arreglo pacífico en Ucrania. 2014. http://sp.ria.ru/international/20140924/162053353.html


VADELL, Javier. Karl Polanyi em Moscou, Putin na Crimeia: A Economia Política da Crise Ucraniana 1.  2014. https://grupoemergentes.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/karl-polanyi-em-moscou-putin-na-crimeia-a-economia-politica-da-crise-ucraniana-1/

OCDE, WTO and World Bank Group. Global value chains: challenges, opportunities, and implications for policy. Report prepared for submission to the G20 Trade Ministers meeting. 19 July 2014. https://www.g20.org/sites/default/files/g20_resources/library/Global%20Value%20Chains%20Challenges%20Opportunities%20and%20Implications%20for%20Policy.pdf



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