G20 Wraps Up With Agreements On Tax Avoidence, Climate & Energy Policy, Infrastructure & Economy Goals. ~By John Hamilton

Brisbane, AU…The G20 meetings have wrapped up and the world leaders representing 85-90% of the world’s economic output are jetting home. Since official communication has to be vetted by many parties the releases on various topics will always be quite bland from summits such as this. Behind the wording of the beige pronouncements was real jockeying for position on Fossil Fuels, Climate Change, Tax Policy with a focus on avoiding revenue loss for the assembled economies, Infrastructure, The Global Economy and assuring it’s continued growth…

Conspicuous to us at least by it’s absence was any mention of freedom. Russia’s Putin was in attendance to make sure his ambitions were not ignored but other than telling him he should respect his neighbors and giving him the official cold shoulder not much was highlighted on ensuring common citizens are safer physically or economically from despots.

I know it sounds trite but without a commitment to actual freedoms, economic freedoms and prosperity become increasingly tenuous if they can be marginalized by whatever governments deem as fair. Many developed nations are now marginalizing free speech and press freedoms under the guise of “Hate Speech” legislation. However by trying to ensure parts of the population are not offended by what is said in publications and public speech it really means that it becomes easier for those in power to manage what is said. If it becomes acceptable for Governments to decide what “Acceptable Speech” is then nothing is really secure.

Without real and at times uncomfortable debates, long term economic freedoms and sustainable growth are a pipe dream and an illusion. Not only that if history is our guide a culture of managed speech emboldens the power hungry. In fact enhanced data sharing between governments on tax and revenue issues only makes it easier for despotic leaning governments of exert increased pressure on their citizens.

Trying to ensure “Fairness” in speech can be just be a publicly acceptable guise to gradually erode all our freedoms. Without real freedom of speech, dissent and uncomfortable debate it also makes it easier for crony capitalism, patronage jobs, no bid contracts and even emboldens the Putin’s of the world to become more aggressive.

Below are the official releases from this years G20. While they are bland, upbeat and generally positive, glaring to us at least is what is missing from the lines. Without a shared commitment to freedoms is free trade and are fair markets really possible?

G20 decisions make global economy more resilient

G20 leaders today endorsed a range of measures designed to make the global economy more resilient to future shocks and to protect business and consumer interests.

Australia has focused on four areas to ensure the circumstances that led to the 2008 global financial crisis will never be repeated:

strengthen financial institutions;
protect taxpayers from having to fund bailouts if ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions run into difficulty;
address shadow banking risks; and
make derivative markets safer.

The G20 Leaders’ Summit has delivered on this commitment.

These important reforms mean the global financial system is far more resilient than it was at the time of the crisis.

Banks have more and higher quality capital, derivatives markets are more transparent and we have reduced risks in the shadow banking sector.

We have also agreed to a proposal to protect taxpayers should a large global bank fail.

This proposal will be subject to public consultation, including with business in 2015.

While work remains to finalise some elements of our policy framework, the G20 financial regulation agenda will now shift focus to implementation, supervision and monitoring of the effects of the reforms. We will also remain alert to emerging risks.

Beginning in 2015, the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) new reporting arrangements on the implementation and effects of the reforms will support this shift in focus.

I would like to thank the FSB for its work this year. I welcome Governor Carney’s reappointment as Chairman of the FSB for a further three year term.

His leadership has been invaluable in progressing this important agenda.

16 November 2014

G20 leaders discuss global energy issues

G20 leaders will work together to ensure access to affordable and reliable energy for all following a plenary session dedicated to global energy issues.

Leaders endorsed landmark energy principles which will ensure energy institutions are more inclusive of emerging and developing economies, will strengthen energy markets, enhance energy security, phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and support sustainable growth and development.

The Brisbane Summit is the first time G20 leaders have had a session dedicated to global energy issues.

Energy is now at the heart of the G20’s agenda and G20 Energy Ministers will meet for the first time next year to take this work forward.

Leaders also agreed to work together to develop better approaches to energy efficiency.

Using energy more efficiently makes our economies more productive and reduces costs for business and for households. It is also a very practical way to address climate change.

The G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan identifies six areas where increased global action will have real benefits for all: heavy vehicles, appliances linked to networks, buildings, industrial processes and more efficient electricity generation and access to finance.

The G20 brings together most of the world’s biggest energy producers and consumers.

It represents more than 80 per cent of global energy consumption, 60 per cent of oil and gas production and over 90 per cent of coal production.

Access to affordable, reliable energy is integral to economic growth and development.

Around the world, about 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity.

Strong and well-functioning energy markets are important for the world and for Australia.

They are essential to resilient economies and are also critical to energy security.

16 November 2014

G20 helps restore fairness to global tax system

G20 Leaders today welcomed OECD recommendations that will help restore fairness, integrity and transparency to the international tax system.

The G20 is on track to deliver on the two-year Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan to address tax avoidance, with all actions scheduled to be delivered this year as promised.

All G20 and OECD members, representing 44 countries and around 90 per cent of the world economy, are committed to the Action Plan reforms which will bring international tax rules into the 21st century.

These reforms will restore the integrity of tax bases and ensure individuals and small businesses do not carry the tax burden unfairly.

They will also ensure countries receive the taxes they are due; revenue which can then be used to provide infrastructure and services to benefit their citizens.

At this Summit, G20 Leaders have endorsed a new global transparency standard that will leave no place for tax cheats to hide.

More than 90 jurisdictions will begin automatic exchange of tax information, using a common reporting standard by 2017 or 2018.

This will arm tax authorities around the world with the information they need to identify tax cheats and enforce the tax laws.

The G20 is working with low-income and other developing countries to ensure they are involved with and benefit from the G20’s tax agenda. The next stage of the BEPS project will see developing countries engaged in developing solutions.

Australia will do its part by assisting the Philippines to implement the automatic exchange of tax information as part of the fight against tax cheats.

Leadership by the G20 on this important issue is having an immediate effect. The OECD estimates that information exchange arrangements have already yielded A$53 billion dollars of revenue in around 20 OECD and G20 countries through increased voluntary disclosures by taxpayers.

Collaboration by tax authorities is the key to enforcing compliance and identifying tax risks.

Recently, 38 tax authorities formally committed to increasing their collaboration to complement the BEPS policy reforms.

G20 Leaders welcome this further collaboration on cross-border compliance activities.

16 November 2014

G20 leaders agree to reduce gender employment gap

G20 leaders have committed to reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by 2025.

Delivering on this commitment will bring more than 100 million additional women into the labour force across the G20 economies and will significantly increase global growth and reduce poverty and inequality.

The OECD estimates a boost to women’s participation of this scale would increase G20 GDP by between 1.2 and 1.6 per cent by 2025, adding more than $1 trillion to the global economy.

Many G20 economies face the challenge of an ageing population.

Increasing women’s participation can help mitigate the impact of ageing populations and support stronger economic growth and productivity.

It also makes best use of the world’s most underutilised resource: the workplace capacity of women.

The actions G20 leaders take will vary from country to country but could include improving access to education and child care, expanding maternity leave options, fostering female entrepreneurs, improving financial literacy and better access to business finance.

16 November 2014

G20 plan exceeds 2 per cent growth as leaders commit to extra economic reforms

The combined growth strategies of G20 member nations presented at the Brisbane Leaders’ Summit will equate to 2.1 per cent new growth and inject an additional $2 trillion into the world economy and create millions of jobs.

The Brisbane Action Plan contains close to 1,000 measures, including more than 800 new ones, which the IMF and OECD estimate will boost the collective GDP of G20 nations by 2.1 per cent by 2018.

This is new growth, over and above business as usual trends.

Early in Australia’s G20 Presidency we set an ambitious target of getting all countries to commit to measures that would deliver at least 2 per cent additional GDP over five years.

The benefits of that growth will be felt worldwide, not just in G20 member nations.

Individual country actions range from employment measures to infrastructure investment, as well as actions to expand trade, increase competition and reduce the regulatory burden on business.

The Brisbane Action Plan and individual country growth strategies and employment plans have been made public so people around the world can see our commitments, hold us to account and witness our progress.

In addition, leaders committed to close the gender gap in labour force participation by 25 per cent by 2025. If successful, this will bring more than 100 million women into the global labour force, further increase global growth, deliver financial independence to millions and help reduce poverty and inequality.

Leaders also agreed to a Global Infrastructure Initiative that will help address the $70 trillion gap in infrastructure needed by 2030 to improve productivity and living standards.

Governments cannot afford to foot this bill on their own.

New sources of investment must be found.

A Global Infrastructure Hub headquartered in Sydney, will drive the G20’s work on infrastructure by bringing together governments, the private sector, multinational development banks and other international organisations.

G20 and non-G20 countries will make use of the Hub’s data, information, ideas and networks to help lift infrastructure investment globally.

G20 members also agreed to tackle base erosion and profit shifting and to share tax information by endorsing a new standard on the exchange of information between tax authorities.

This will make sure that big business pays tax in the same place it earns its profits. It will help secure our revenue bases and restore integrity and fairness to the global tax system.

Free trade is good for all of us. It drives growth and creates jobs.

Leaders have put on the table domestic reforms to make it easier to trade.

We agreed on the importance of good quality trade agreements to make our economies more competitive and we began a discussion about how the World Trade Organization could work better to deliver the growth we need.

Australia has pushed hard for G20 leaders to focus on the importance of energy to economic development, particularly for developing economies.

It is critical that global institutions reflect the changing nature of the global energy markets and leaders have agreed the G20 Principles on Energy Collaboration. These will be an important foundation for the G20’s ongoing efforts.

G20 leaders support strong and effective action to address climate change.

Consistent with the UNFCCC, our actions will support sustainable development, economic growth and certainty for business and investment.

Leaders also endorsed significant measures which will help strengthen the global financial system. These measures will help ensure the circumstances which led to the global financial crisis do not occur again.

Banks are now better capitalised, derivative markets are safer and work has progressed to better protect taxpayers if large banks fail. We have reduced risks in the shadow banking sector.

Our focus now is to get on with the job of implementing our commitments while remaining alert to new and emerging risks.

We have also made progress on anti-corruption, energy and sustainability, development and reform of international economic institutions.

Leaders also expressed deep concern about humanitarian and economic impact of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

We support the international response and have committed to do all we can to contain and respond to the crisis.

I thank my fellow G20 leaders for their support and willingness to prioritise reforms that underpin economic growth and job creation.

16 November 2014