Ahead of June’s G20 Osaka Summit, the Business 20 (B20) engagement group held its 2019 gathering in Tokyo on 14 and 15 March at the Keidanren Kaikan. There are six engagement groups that act as the voices of key social and business areas to advise the G20 and inform its decisions. As the first of these groups, the B20 was established in 2010.
Attending this year’s gathering, organised by the Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, were leading business associations from across the G20 countries. The UK was represented by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, led the delegation and was supported by CBI Director of Trade and Investment Ben Digby and Chief Representative China NE & SE Asia Guy Dru Drury. British Chamber of Commerce in Japan Executive Director Lori Henderson MBE also joined the delegation along with: Wilson Del Socorro, global director for trade, tax and regulatory affairs at Diageo plc; Anne Kerre, managing director for greater China at Mott MacDonald; Daniel Marti, head of global government affairs at the RELX Group; Gianluca Riccio, portfolio management and credit director at Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets; and Rolls-Royce Japan President Haruhiko Tsuyukubo.
The theme of the 2019 B20 Summit, Towards the Realisation of Society 5.0 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sought to foster discussion that would find ways to support the United Nations’ SDGs. Meetings focused on five areas:
- Trade and investment
- Energy and the environment
In his comments introducing the focus, Keidanren Chairman Hiroki Nakanishi explained: “Today, digital technology is bringing major changes not only to the economy, but to the foundations of society itself. Our challenge is to create a future for the globe in the midst of these changes.
“The central concept of the proposal is Society 5.0, based on the idea that human society is moving into a fifth stage. Following on from the hunting society, agrarian society, industrial society, and information society, the fifth stage will be a creative society in which a combination of the digital transformation and the imagination and creativity of diverse people will make it possible to solve the problems facing society and create new values”.
One of the CBI’s goals during the summit was to ease concerns about the UK that some around the world may have about the impact of Brexit.
Speaking in the first morning session, entitled “Global Economy for All”, Fairbairn began with what she called reasons to be cheerful.
“One of my big messages for today—one of the reasons I wanted to be here—is that British business is absolutely open for business, global in its thinking,” she said. “One of the facts from this week is that UK exports are at a record high. [Also] employment is at a record high, the UK is still the fintech capital of the world, we had a 40% increase in foreign direct investment last year, female participation is rising, and 75% of our young people want to start a business. So, there are real reasons to feel very optimistic about the UK and our place in the world”.
She also had a chance to meet with the World Trade Organization Deputy Director General Yonov Frederick Agah. Among the topics they discussed were:
- Rules-based global trading system
- Low-carbon transition
- Sustainable finance
Given the urgency of building stronger bilateral ties between the UK and Japan, the CBI delegation took advantage of the Tokyo trip to meet Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and Brexit Taskforce Chair Yasutoshi Nishimura. The leaders discussed the importance of the economic relationship between the two countries and how our existing trade links can be strengthened.
There was also a chance for Fairbairn to speak about matters related to climate with Masamichi Kono, deputy secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. On 14 December, at the closing of the 24th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, the UK put in a bid to host COP26 next year.
The B20 was a fruitful opportunity to ease concerns about Brexit and to advance UK interests both globally—as a voice in crafting recommendations for the G20—and locally, through face-to-face meetings with Japanese leaders.
Following two days of meetings, the group released its 24-page B20 Tokyo Summit Joint Recommendations document. Addressing the G20, the B20 wrote that “concrete policies and measures for implementation to realise Society 5.0 for SDGs should be based and monitored on the following principles, namely the B20 Tokyo Summit Seven Principles”. Policies and measures should be:
- Sustainable to achieve the SDGs.
- Inclusive to ensure diversity.
- Future-oriented to avoid short-sightedness in a rapidly changing world.
- Business-driven to promote businesses’ creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, regardless of their size, sector or region.
- Transparent to ensure accountability and integrity.
- Rules-based to provide predictability and consistency.
- Multilateral to provide solutions to global issues through cooperation and dialogue among various countries and stakeholders.
“It is critical to design policies that foster innovation and spur investment that is achieved through the combination of multi-disciplinary and multi-sourced knowledge. Thus, governments should promote an innovation ecosystem that brings together established businesses, start-ups and academia, and enhances research and development through incentive policies,” the group said before outlining seven main goals:
- Digital transformation for all
- Trade and investment for all
- Energy and the environment for all
- Quality infrastructure for all
- Future of work for all
- Health and well-being for all
- Integrity for all
- Business for all
“All stakeholders in both developed and developing countries are encouraged to collaborate to realise Society 5.0 for SDGs,” the group said in conclusion. “We, the B20, shall stand firm to contribute more to highlight and emphasise further detailed views on specific issues to be discussed at the G20 Ministerial and task-force meetings”.
Watch videos of the sessions on the B20 Tokyo Summit website: