Home' acuity : Acuity July 2014 Contents the regional comprehensive economic
partnership and the bilateral free trade
“ They’re all helpful but they simply
can’t address all the issues that the WTO
should be able to address if it were suitably
directed and governed and focused.
“I think the B20 can deliver a really
useful message around the future shape
of multilateral negotiations and what’s
most important to business.”
Ballingall’s second trade topic focuses
on getting so-called mega-regional
trade agreements – such as the recent
TPP; the Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership; and ASEAN’s
Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership – to operate in harmony.
“I think there is a role for the B20 to
tell the G20 there are risks from having
these mega-trade agreements that
might not align,” he says.
“If you have different sets of trade
rules operating in different parts of the
world, that just increases your costs and
uncertainty – and all that does is eat
into profits and productivity.”
Third on his list is the need to push
for improvements in trade facilitation
or, in his words, try to remove the
“grit in the wheels” of international
“Anything that can be done to ease
the wheels of commerce in terms of
getting through ports, infrastructure,
e-commerce – all of these sort of
things – I think are really important to
reduced trade costs and ultimately to
deliver cheaper goods to consumers
and lift their living standards.”
Ballingall says there’s perhaps one
more thing G20 leaders should consider
but are unlikely to put near the top of
their to do list.
“I think there is always the risk of
countries and leaders kicking the fiscal
can down the road and asking future
generations to pay for today’s political
commitments,” he says.
In other words, spending big now and
leaving future generations to pick up
the tab as is happening in the US, UK
and parts of Europe.
Although the G20 has only been
meeting at leaders level since the GFC,
he says it’s already managed to become
somewhat bloated by trying to do too
many things at once and says there’s a
danger it can lose its way. In the past,
the B20 has gone the same way.
“Once you get a shotgun, scattergun
blast of ideas across so many areas a
lot of them, by definition, will not be
successful,” he points out.
“ There’s too much to do, there’s a lack
of focus, things are all over the place.
You need to set a priority.”
G20 finance ministers
meeting, Cairns (includes
G20 finance ministers
fourth meeting (if
B20 meeting in Brisbane
B20 timeline (cont’d)
G20 Infrastructure and
group meeting, Indonesia
G20 Leaders Summit to
be held in Brisbane
“In terms of big breakthroughs, we
haven’t seen anything in a long time.”
“One of the things you can learn from
New Zealand’s position is that the hard
decisions were made four or five years
ago and the government has stuck
steadfastly to fiscal prudence as being
the number one economic priority.
“ They’ve bored everyone into
submission but it’s been very effective.
“You can criticise the NZ Government
for many things but in terms of fiscal
prudence, they’ve been outstanding.”
Mike Callaghan AM says the B20 and
the G20 need to be careful not to bite
off more than they can chew.
Callaghan is the Director of the G20
Studies Centre at the Lowy Institute for
Callaghan says there’s an obvious
agenda topper: trade.
“One of the things the G20 can do is
to remove the impediments to trade
that G20 countries introduced in
response to a crisis,” he says.
“ This is where the B20 is absolutely
right, they have identified that we
have seen growing protectionism and
particularly this murky protectionism.
“ Trade is the lifeblood of these
globally operating firms and the global
While trade is a top ticket item,
Callaghan says some B20 topics are not
of the same priority for an international
For instance, one B20 policy group is
looking at human capital and issues such
acuity | JULY 2014
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