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The G20 Osaka Summit 2019: Japan’s Focus


Japan Watch Project Analyst by Reni Juwitasari


After holding the Imperial Chrysanthemum Throne event in May 2019, Japan will be hosting the G20 (Group of Twenty) Summit in Osaka which is scheduled to be held during June 28 to 29 as the first ever G20 Summit to be hosted in Japan. Japan, together with Argentina and Saudi Arabia, was chosen to host the 14th G20 Summit by the agreement of G20 Troika System, a system to organize the Summit by choosing three countries triennially as the previous, the current and the next summit’s host. The G20 is an international forum that includes 19 countries and 1 group, namely Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Tokyo also announced that leaders from other eight countries would be invited as guests and the leaders of Spain and Singapore have already confirmed their attendances.


Prior to the Summit in Osaka, several related meetings participated by ministers and involved groups of those member countries are also scheduled to take place in Tokyo and cities around the country. The cities are chosen mainly due to their potential economic growth and safety reason. Patently, for Osaka and Kansai area, the G20 Summit will be an excellent opportunity to revitalize its regional economy by appealing for MICE events and accelerating Osaka/Kansai SMEs development. Additionally, Osaka will provide a safe and secure environment with fully prepared security for it will be expecting more than 30,000 attendees, including over 20 world leaders, heads of various international organizations, delegates, officials, and media journalists.


Hitherto, the Japanese government has announced the official agenda for the G20 Osaka Summit prioritizing on at least 4 topics: (1) trade imbalance, (2) infrastructure quality, (3) digitalization of the economy, and (4) the aging population. From the previous event of G20 Buenos Aires Summit in 2018, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that, as the 2019 host, Japan would come up with the agenda on highlighting aging population, migration, and technological innovation. The G20 Osaka Summit will possibly re-emphasize the discussion on issues of global importance as well, primarily emphasizing on existing issues, such as, global health, climate change, gender equality, and sustainable development goals.


It is believed that Japan will use its G20 Chairmanship to rebuild the trust in the global system. As the Summit is held under the tension of trade war between the U.S. and China, Japan is expected to be responsible for protecting the rules-based free trade regime with an assumption that it is a fair, transparent and effective system having an adverse effect to global growth. Japan leadership is also expected to provide a decisive voice that aligns with the core mission of the G20 to break the global status quo by engaging China into the global system. By G20 as a platform, Japan can facilitate the dialogue between the U.S. and China.

The effort of Japan as a response to an uncertain future of trade imbalance is that the Japanese government has demonstrated its willingness to stand up to protectionist initiatives by trying to keep the U.S. in the Trans-Pacific Partnership economic pact, even though it had failed. In the Summit, Japan will table the momentum to deflationary economy famously known as “Abenomics” which has also seen some success, with the benefit spilling over to trading partners, namely the fiscal stimulus on building critical infrastructure projects, such as bridges, tunnels and earthquake resistant roads. Moreover, Japan, eventually, will present a dramatically changed policy related to mobility; that is the openly absorption of  high numbers of blue-collar immigrants into the country in sectors grappling with labor shortages due to aging population under its New Immigration Visa Policy.


The G20 will also focus on redefining the current priority issues of infrastructure quality in order to assist development of the region, mitigation of income disparities, support to SMEs and promotion of female participation in the workforce. The main aim is to increasing economic productivity, resilience and safety while contributing to local economies transparently and sustainably. Moreover, as Japan is in advance on digital economies, it may be able to respond to, especially, the criticism of major digital multinational companies of not paying the “fair-share” of taxes. Through the G20, Japan will provide a forum for international rule-making that will serve as a bridge communication which aims to tax digital multinationals, particularly the reluctant US and China.


Regarding innovation, robotic revolution will be proposed in the G20 Osaka, with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) particularly included in the agenda in which Japan will ask world’s leaders to discuss the “Society 5.0” or a super-smart society. It appears that AI technology will be primarily introduced as a part of Japan’s strategy in technological innovation to manage the problem of aging and shrinking population. It also seems to be the area where Japan will create a new society incorporating physical space and cyber space towards the sustainable development agenda.


Japan, as a signatory of the Paris Agreement, will exercise its influence by pushing the climate change issue to be one of G20 Summit priorities. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, the Japanese Prime Minister Abe stated that climate change is a serious problem requiring more disruptive innovations before it is too late. To follow up this issue, on March 6, Japan held a summit of the S20 (Science 20) with the topic “Threats to Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, and Conversation of the Ocean Environment-with Special Attention to Climate Change and Marine Plastic Waste”. The S20’s recommendations focused on major environmental problems on global scale related to the commitment with SDGs, Sendai Framework, and Paris Agreement as responses to the problems of sea level rise, frequent extreme weather conditions deriving from global warming, deoxygenation and acidification, plastic waste accumulation in the ocean and land, and better enforcement and elimination of IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported) damaging fishing. Then, in this G20 Summit Japan will demonstrate how to decouple the economic and emissions growth in the energy and transportation sectors, both domestically and internationally, while still providing expanded economic opportunities and energy access.


Following the S20, the B20 (Business 20) also assembled during March 14 to 15 in Tokyo. The event highlighted the theme of “Society 5.0 for SDGs”. The B20 suggested that Japan, as the originator of Society 5.0, should bring the concept of fruition in partnership to offset the shrinking population and lift productivity. Continuously, during May 21 to 23, there will be the C20 (Civil 20) meeting in which the C20 leaders will be presenting their recommendations to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on how to address a variety of issues ranging from corruption and education to the environment and engineering infrastructure. Digital economy has also emerged as one of the key items on the agenda. In addition, the U20 (Urban 20) which is the Mayors summit also held during May 20 to 22 in Tokyo with the topics related to sustainability, social integration and inclusion, and economic growth.


On May 26 and 27, Japan will also welcome a team of the T20 (Think 20) in Tokyo. On this meeting, experts from the world’s leading think tanks will unveil their policy recommendations for consideration during the G20 Osaka Summit, related to the potential policy solutions on Japan’s aging and shrinking population. At almost the same time, from May 26 to 30, Y20 (Youth 20) will be having a meeting on “Let’s deliver the voice of people to G20”, focusing on three points of discussion on international trade, business and environment as well as future of work. Three speeches will be delivered to express the expectation for youth in the age of society 5.0.


Undeniably, the G20 Osaka will be an impeccable moment for Japan to actively participate in the global agenda of improving gender equality on labor field. The L20 (Labor 20) summit will be held after the G20 summit on August 29 and 30 in Tokyo concerning global labor movement, mainly about labor’s rights and social protections. To follow up with the L20 future recommendations, W20 (Women 20) will continue the topic of women on four pillars: labor equity, financial equity, digital equity, and governance. Until now, Japan still has faced challenges to improve gender equality and this issue still impede the economy’s growth potential. One of the counter-measures that the Japanese government has been trying to put in place is a change in traditional gender and family roles, where men are more acceptable to work outside of home compared to women. As a result of practices rooted in gender stereotypes, women lack an opportunity to go into professions other than those deemed “suitable” for women, such as children’s education, nursing, and other roles considered as extensions of women’s traditional family roles. The meeting is expected to give an opportunity for Japanese society to learn from other examples.






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Photo:  KYODO