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12 February 2019, Gateway House

Think20 Mumbai 2019 Keynote by A. Gitesh Sarma

The following remarks were given by A. Gitesh Sarma, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India as the Keynote Speaker at the Think20 Mumbai 2019 roundtable discussion on January 28, 2019

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This is the transcript of the Keynote Address that the author gave at Think20 Mumbai 2019, hosted by Gateway House. Click here to view details of the event.

Good morning.

Ambassador Neelam Deo, Manjeet Kripalani,

Your role in founding Gateway House and nurturing this as a reputed institution is well known. Let us appreciate that at the very outset.

Distinguished international and Indian participants,

Many of you have come from long distances, in fact, very very long distances, so we appreciate your presence. Particularly as MEA, we have the benefit of your opinions and views, sitting in one single location in Mumbai. You have taken the trouble to come here. We are just present to listen to you.

Dear colleagues,

Right at the outset, let me commend Gateway House for bringing us together in this way. Let us recall that G20 emerged in 1999 as a Forum of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. And already by 2008, it had been elevated to the level of heads of state and government. Interestingly, Gateway House was itself established in 2009. In these ten years, it has become a most credible think tank, and everyone looks forward to the results of its deliberations.

Last night, we met informally, and I was recalling that it is not by accident that we meet in Mumbai. This is India’s commercial capital, financial hub and home to Bollywood. This is the city of dreams, and also the city where dreams are turned into reality – provided we work hard. But sadly, this city is also one that has seen tragedy and reminds us how vulnerable we are to forces of evil – unless we join hands to create a better world. In fact, it is this very venue that reminds us of this lesson.

Friends, since its inception in 2012, this forum has helped the G20 arrive at concrete policy measures and its contribution must be commended. The deliberations of T20 feed into the deliberations of G20. Let us remember that G20 together contributes around 85% of global GDP, over 75% of global trade and is home to two-thirds of the world’s population.

There is the expectation that G20 would focus on the most topical issues of the day facing mankind, as a whole, and help in setting the global agenda. This becomes especially important when we find that global institutions, like the United Nations Security Council, World Bank and IMF, do not adequately reflect contemporary realities.

I commend Japanese think tanks and institutions and Gateway House for joining hands to organise this important meeting. Friendship between India and Japan has ‘a long history, rooted in spiritual affinity and very strong cultural and civilisational ties. Today, India is the fastest growing, major economy, and Japan, one of the most advanced economies of the world: this is really a dream partnership and we are working together to take this relationship to a new level. The relationship has already been upgraded to ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership.’

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the start of 2019, the global economic outlook continues to be subdued. There are challenges coming from increasing protectionism and policy uncertainties, disorderly financial market movements, slow productivity growth, skill deficiencies in emerging economies, the implementation of unsustainable macroeconomic policies and a host of other factors.

At the same time, we have to deal with more fundamental shifts. The reality is that the world is at the crossroads of transition today, given the rapid changes in technologies, Artificial Intelligence and the digital revolution. The socio-economic landscape of the future will be determined by how we respond to this transformation.

Demographic shifts, changing character of production and employment and technology-induced transformations are altering the way we do things. The digital revolution has fundamentally blurred the lines between the physical, digital and  biological worlds. I myself recall how about 20 years ago, when the internet came, and the way it came, we spoke of the death of distance itself.

These changes are both challenges and opportunities, for people and governments. It has also taken us into uncharted territories for policy making and coordination, including in the international arena. The time has come to focus on inclusive growth in both national and international contexts.

Another key challenge is that the benefits of globalisation have not spread evenly. This has resulted in mistrust and opposition to globalisation, social tensions and a rise in expectations, which limit space for governments. There are also heightened geopolitical tensions. Hence, the role of G20 has become even more critical today.

Rising protectionism is threatening the multilateral trading system. Protectionism, trade wars, sluggish economic growth all make it incumbent for G20 to deliberate on ways in which free trade flows can be promoted. This is necessary since hundreds of millions of people are yet to be fully integrated with the world economy and reap its full benefits. The global trading system will have to become fair and equitable. WTO needs to be further reformed to keep pace with the ever-changing and ever more complex global economy.

Friends, in a global economy, our actions and those of others are likely to have a global impact. Even if we are careful and considerate when it comes to technology, we still might be adversely impacting some other country and society located far away from us. That is the reality of today’s world. At the same time, if growth is not fast enough and sustained over a long period of time, we would not be able to adequately deal with poverty. These are the kinds of challenges which forums such as this will have to deliberate on.

Global multilateral institutions, including global financial institutions, need further reforms to reflect the realities of the day. Reformed multilateralism is the need of the hour for these institutions to remain relevant. As the issue of IMF Quota and Governance Reforms and other proposals to give more voice and representation to Emerging and Developing Market Countries in IMF are being deliberated, the G20 has an important role in breaking the deadlock in the current negotiations.

Economies with liquidity should invest in economies where there is potential for expansion in order to sustain global growth. G20 should play a lead role in this regard. One of the key challenges faced by developing economies is the absence of coordinated policy measures from developed countries, resulting in reversal of funds from developing economies to developed economies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

India values its partnership with Japan; we look forward to working closely with Japan for the success of the Japanese presidency and of the 14th G20 Summit being held in June, at Osaka. India has always looked forward to working closely with G20 presidencies to forge consensus on various issues and we would do so during the Japanese presidency as well. Our best wishes go out to Japan for its presidency.

We also think that the themes and focus areas identified by the Japanese presidency are greatly relevant in today’s world. Lack of infrastructure is a major impediment to realising socio-economic growth, especially of the developing countries. Therefore, we welcome the thrust on high quality infrastructure. India has declared infrastructure as an asset class to enable larger investments into this sector. India believes that the G20 should also play a more active role in promoting infrastructure investments by multilateral development banks.

We welcome the focus being brought on ageing and the need to provide quality life to the aged as well. It is increasingly becoming an important area requiring greater attention in many countries. Indeed, this is an area which could benefit from the technological revolution.

Another critical agenda that would need to be taken forward during the 2019 presidency is the issue of skill deficiency, especially in developing economies. Interestingly, this is an area of concern even in developed economies with rapid technological changes. This was suitably reflected in the priorities of the Argentinian presidency as “Future of Work”.

Here, I would like to compliment Argentina for having organised the first ever joint meeting of the education and labour ministers, recognising the need for policy coordination to be initiated from the early days of schooling so that the transformation from schooling to employment is a smooth one. We urge Japan to continue to give focus to this area as it has emerged as a critical area of concern, exacerbating social tensions and resulting in restrictive policy measures.

G20 Leaders in Buenos Aires had agreed that WTO has played an important role in promoting a free, open, rules-based world trading order and had also agreed that there is a need for reforms in the WTO. We look forward to further discussions towards protecting and strengthening multilateral trading systems and reforming the WTO while retaining its core approach of differential treatment for developing economies amongst others.

Friends, PM Modi had highlighted at the Buenos Aires Summit the need to strengthen cooperation on returning economic fugitives and their illegally acquired assets. PM Modi has also stressed the need for G20 to work on strengthening social security schemes and to ensure their portability. We look forward to further progress in this regard.

We also look forward to working closely to realise the shared objective of ensuring price stability in energy markets because this is impacting both the developed and the developing markets, the latter more so.

We look forward also to working closely with Japan during its presidency for taking forward the agenda on climate change, including implementation of commitment by developed countries to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries on countering terrorism and on global health.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that India is looking forward to itself hosting the G20 presidency in 2022, the 75th year of our independence. While we would build on the good work done by the previous presidencies, the government of India is also looking to create more opportunities and give a new thrust to global development and the community feeling, and in this regard, we look forward to receiving valuable inputs from the T20.

I wish you great success in your deliberations.

Thank you.

A. Gitesh Sarma is Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

These remarks were given as the Keynote Address at Think20 Mumbai 2019, hosted by Gateway House. Click here to view details of the event.

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