The meeting in Cairns is aiming to agree on a set of policies to achieve an ambitious goal to raise the total GDP of the grouping’s countries by two percent over the next five years — a target they set in Sydney earlier this year.
Finance ministers and central bank governors, including US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, want to be able to take their plan to grow the world economy to the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane in November.
Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey, who is chairing the meeting, said he was encouraged by the more than 900 submissions that had been made by participating countries to meet the growth target.
These involve reforms to accelerate infrastructure investment, steps to strengthen financial reform and the opening of economies to free trade.
“We are determined to make the world a better place, to grow the global economy, to create more and better paying jobs, to build the infrastructure to ensure children get better quality water, education and healthcare,” he said in opening the summit.
“I have no doubt that as a result of the deliberations of this meeting this weekend, followed by the leaders’ summit in Brisbane in November, that we have the opportunity to change the destiny of the global economy.”
But with the OECD downgrading its world growth forecasts this week amid a stalling eurozone recovery and weakening emerging economies, the task has become more complicated.
There is also mounting concern about the impact on emerging economies of the US Fed’s shift towards tightening its monetary policy next year, while political tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East have spooked some.
– Growth plan makes sense –
Capital Economics senior global economist Andrew Kenningham said he was not expecting any fireworks from Cairns.
“Few analysts will be waking up early this weekend to read the communique,” he said.
“It is likely to cover a lot of familiar ground. No doubt it will be full of good intentions -– but the key question is how much will be implemented.”
But he added that with world growth lacklustre, “the G20 focus on promoting growth makes a lot of sense”.
OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria said difficult reforms to spur economic activity were more essential now than ever with global growth struggling.
“Why would you reduce the ambition when precisely what you need is the growth,” he told The Australian newspaper.
“Why do you think some countries are doing better now? It’s because they did the structural changes. They went in earlier and now it is starting to produce a benefit.”
While driving growth is a key focus of the summit, G20 nations are also expected to show progress on a common reporting standard to stop multinational companies from shifting profits to avoid tax.
The OECD put forward proposals this week and handed them to the G20 on Saturday, with Gurria calling it the biggest changes to international tax rules in more than a century.
The plan seeks to close international loopholes used by multinational firms, including digital giants such as Apple and Google, to avoid paying large amounts of tax, which is costing countries billions of dollars.
The two-day G20 meeting in Cairns ends on Sunday.