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G20 Summit should focus on global growth

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The G20 Leaders’ Summit, taking place on Bali, Indonesia (15-17 November) is an opportunity to focus on how to get the global economy back on track. Specifically, how to improve trade and economic ties between the EU and the major emerging nations such as Indonesia, India and Brazil, writes Lars Patrick Berg, a German ECR MEP.

Indonesia, currently holding the Presidency of the G20, has seen its original agenda overtaken first by the shock of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and then by the resultant global energy crisis and the accompanying dramatic rise in inflation. The summit is an opportunity to look again at that original agenda: the Indonesian President Joko Widowo has identified three core issues that are well-judged given their long-term importance to global prosperity.

The EU should drive this effort to support Indonesia’s original G20 agenda, because the three core issues identified by Indonesia are essential to the EU’s global ambitions.

These are: first, continuing to build resilience into global health markets to boost the post-COVID recovery and prepare for future pandemics. Second, driving the sustainable energy transition. And third, prioritising inclusive economic development around the world through collaboration between developed and emerging economies.

So what is the EU position – and how are we progressing – on these important priorities, ahead of the Summit?

When it comes to post-COVID health resilience, the EU remains a global leader. Vaccination rates are high, economic activity has returned and the Commission and Member States have been more proactive at providing support to developing nations, the World Health Organisation and the global vaccination effort. There is always more to be done – but we are making good progress.

For the Sustainable Energy Transition the picture is far more mixed. In some areas, the EU is leading the way – commitment to investment in renewables, for example; and implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, our regulations on the use of renewable fuels, including truly sustainable waste products and by-products, are driven by protectionism and political positioning rather than the science. This has been understandably a cause of great frustration for partner countries. 

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The waste products from palm oil production, an important sustainable energy export for the G20 hosts Indonesia, faces a ban because MEPs have a pre-conceived bias against fuels from developing countries. The Parliament’s recent vote on the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Regulation (“ReFuel EU”) explicitly excluded palm oil, regardless of its sustainability level.

This is unscientific policymaking – but also morally questionable. Commissioners travel the world lecturing countries like Indonesia about the importance of global rules (e.g. WTO) and the importance of sustainable energy (e.g. using waste products) – and then MEPs propose to rip up WTO commitments and introduce trade discrimination against sustainable fuels. This will do nothing to help the global energy transition, and will sow distrust amongst our allies.

This leads us to the third priority for the Summit: inclusive global economic growth. We have to face facts: on this metric, the EU is not merely failing. At times, our policymaking is actively harming the progress towards this goal. Protectionist EU regulations, pushed primarily by domestic lobby groups and NGOs in an effort to restrict businesses and free markets, have emerged as one of the biggest barriers to growth. 

As the world’s largest integrated single market, the EU should be a driver of global trade; instead, we are in stasis. Trade deals with India, Indonesia, Mercosur, and others all lie in various states of failure or neglect. That’s over 1.5 billion people, with whom we could have better trading conditions, access to new markets, and reduced costs for European businesses.

This commitment to protectionism also harms those in the developing world who need trade and economic growth. It is a lose-lose.

The G20 Presidency of Indonesia deserves great credit for trying to bring back these important strategic discussions ahead of the summit. There are pressing concerns in Europe, yes: supporting Ukraine; addressing the immediate energy crisis. But we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture – our partners certainly haven’t. It is in the interest of everyone in Europe if we commit to that agenda – and secure a real sustainable energy transition and real inclusive global economic cooperation.

Enough of the petty bans and protectionist trade restrictions. Let’s go for growth.

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EU Reporter publishes articles from a variety of outside sources which express a wide range of viewpoints. The positions taken in these articles are not necessarily those of EU Reporter.

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