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A Think20 rendezvous in Buenos Aires

A new year, a new presidency and a new set of priorities. Argentina launched its presidency of the G20 for 2018 with gusto. As an emerging market and as a Latin American country, it brings a welcome first-time focus on issues, such as, the Future of Work, Food Security and Infrastructure Financing.

More than 400 experts from 145 think tanks, representing 45 countries, gathered in G20’s new capital, Buenos Aires, on February 1 and 2, to collectively launch the research agenda for the Think20, the official sub-forum of the G20 for think tanks. In 2018, the Think20 process is being led by two leading Argentine think tanks – the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI) and the Centre for Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC).

The forum launched ten taskforces, spanning the full spectrum of work under G20 – future of work, climate change, food security, gender equity, sustainable development, trade and investment, social cohesion, international financial architecture, and migration.

Argentina’s prioritisation of Future of Work, Food Security and Infrastructure Financing, over core finance issues, such as, financial architecture, continues with the practice of past presidencies to steer the G20 towards socio-economic issues that are indeed more urgent and widespread. India is witnessing the repercussions of jobless growth, scarcity of water and food, and crumbling infrastructure. Therefore, the focus is welcome.

Experts at the Think20 plenary sessions gave thought-provoking insights. Jikun Huang, Director of the China Centre for Agriculture Policy at Peking University (China), made a pitch for focusing on trade for solving food security woes. His research indicated how countries with better arable land and water will become large food exporters. Amar Bhattacharya, Senior Fellow with the Global Economy and Development programme at Brookings (U.S.), explained why multilateral development banks remain central to infrastructure financing, including for attracting private capital. Dennis Snower, the President of Kiel Institute for the World Economy (Germany), called for a new reciprocal contract between governments and citizens to mitigate the demands of populism.

The G20 may have changed direction and refined its priorities, but work on the unfinished agenda of financial reforms is still underway. International institutions and standard-setting bodies, such as the International Monetary Foundation, Bank for International Settlements, Financial Stability Board, and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, are continuing with their mission of re-calibrating and re-engineering the global financial system. To this end, the T20 International Financial Architecture (IFA) taskforce’s research on monetary policy coordination, financial disclosures, global safety nets, multilateral financing and crypto-currencies, should provide some policy ideas for the G20 leaders to explore.

Each Think20 leadership brings its own intellectual vibrancy and process refinements to this global research process. The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV, Turkey, 2015) expanded the scale of the network to include experts from all G20 countries and beyond. The Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Shanghai Institute for International Studies and Renmin University of China (China, 2016) hosted theme-specific meetings – international finance, multilateral development banks, economic governance – around the world. Kiel and German Development Institute (DIE, Germany, 2017) established taskforces and introduced a formal process for aggregating research before presenting it to the G20 leaders.

This year, CIPPEC and CARI introduced a novel policy bridge between think tanks and government. It began with spirited keynotes by the minister of treasury and cabinet secretary of the government of Argentina, and followed with closed-door interactions with Argentine government officials for understanding the research needs of the G20 for the year. For instance, the IFA taskforce (of which I am co-chair), met with the officials of the ministry of finance of Argentina to identify how our research can help Argentina complete the unfinished agenda of macro- and micro-prudential reforms.

The Argentinian Think20 process was also supported by the ministry of foreign affairs and Worship of Argentina that lent its beautiful San Martin Palace for the meetings. It’s a venue otherwise reserved by the Argentine government for hosting foreign leaders and delegations. The symbiotic relationship between the Argentine think tanks and their government is enviable.

Gateway House will contribute to the Argentinian Think20 process by hosting a meeting in Mumbai on 12 March 2018. This will be the fourth year in a row that we will be hosting an official meeting of the Think20 – a unique accomplishment for India. Our day-long agenda consists of a focus on future of work, food security, trade in services and financial market regulation, a heady mix of priorities that appeal to Argentina, India and many other countries in the G20, and beyond. Officials from the ministries of external affairs, finance, commerce and our Sherpa’s office are expected to join the roundtable discussions. The output will be published as policy briefs, and also submitted for governments for consideration.

The Think20 prides itself as the ideas bank and the policy advice network for the G20. Its strength is in its ability to attract the best minds on global economic governance. Its work plan should not only be aligned to the G20 but should be more expansive. After all, we should be researching and advising on issues that government’s have not even begun to consider. Otherwise, the perspectives will not add value to the information policy-makers already have, and the forum will lose its significance.

The inception workshop in Argentina provided just the right launch pad. The professionalism of CARI and CIPPEC were only outmatched by the warmth of their welcome. Now, it is time for the rest of the forum to deliver!

Akshay Mathur is former Director, Research and Analysis & Fellow, Geoeconomic Studies, Gateway House.

Click here to view details about the Think20 2018 meeting hosted by Gateway House. 

Click here to view details about this event.

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