Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh used this opportunity to reach out and not only exchange views with the leadership of some of the seven industrialized nations but also with other leaders from international institutions who were present for the Summit
Bangladesh reaches out during G-7 summit
The Group of Seven (G-7) industrial powers pledged on 27 May that they, in coming days will seek strong global growth and also try to paper over differences on currencies and stimulus policies. They also expressed concern over the evolving activities in North Korea, Russia and the exacerbating maritime disputes involving China. This Summit was monitored carefully because its members did not include Russia and also because of the “outreach” factor that had enabled the participation of several countries, including Bangladesh, not members of G-7 but invited to the meet to share their views with these industrial leaders.
The broad-ranging 32 page Declaration issued at the end of the Summit held at Ise-Shima, Japan, also committed to the use of “all policy tools” to boost demand and to ease supply constraint. It was also noted that “global growth remains moderate and below potential, while risks of weak growth persist.” It was also commonly recognized that “global growth is” a matter of “urgent priority”. It would be important to note here Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s comment that “the most worrisome risk’ was the possible “ contraction of the global economy” led by a slowdown in emerging economies”. In this context it was urged that there was a need for undertaking appropriate policy responses.
The G-7 leadership also committed themselves to market-based exchange rates and to avoiding “competitive devaluation” of their currencies through possible “wild exchange rates moves”. This has been interpreted as a compromise between the position of Japan, which has threatened to intervene to block any sharp rise of the Yen, and the United States whose Fed authorities generally oppose market intervention. It is being hoped that such an effort and “balanced policy mix’ will help to “achieve a strong, sustainable and balanced growth pattern” that will also take into account each country’s circumstances while continuing efforts to put public debt on a sustainable path. A bold effort, to say the least. Wonderful, if it succeeds.
There was however difference of views with regard to the above between Abe and German Chancellor Merkel. Abe stressed the need for flexible fiscal policy to sustain economic recovery, while Merkel was skeptical about greater public spending to boost growth.
The G-7, among other areas, also addressed themselves to the question of global industrial over-capacity, particularly in the steel sector and the need for resolving “this pressing structural challenge with global implications”. They appear to have had China in their mind in this regard.
As expected, the 42nd G-7 Summit demanded that North Korea fully comply with U.N. Security Council Resolutions and halt nuclear tests, missile launches and other ‘provocative actions’. One cannot support the unwarranted actions being taken by North Korea as they amount to deliberate incitement that can endanger stability within the surrounding region. One would have however hoped that these important industrial nations would have likewise addressed the issue of non-compliance with UN Security Resolutions by Israel with regard to its continued occupation of Palestinian territories and flagrant violation of human and social rights in the occupied territories. This was not done and some critics pointed out that this smacked of double standards.
The G-7 also condemned Russia’s “illegal annexation” of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. They also threatened “further restrictive measures” to raise the costs for Moscow s course of action. It was however also indicated that sanctions could be rolled back if Russia implemented international legal principles and respected Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The G-7 also expressed their concern over the East and South China Seas, where China, it was considered, has been taking more assertive action amid territorial disputes with Japan and other Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam and the Philippines. The G-7 avoided mentioning Beijing by name but reiterated its commitment to the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes and to the respecting of the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight over disputed territories. At the same time G-7 called for other countries to refrain from “unilateral actions which could increase tensions” and urged all stakeholders to “settle disputes by peaceful means”.
China, for obvious reasons has not been very pleased with the G-7 stance and its efforts to isolate Beijing on issues such as the South China Sea or the dynamics that has evolved from the creation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)- the US led trading bloc that includes Japan and Canada but not China. In their own way China has tried to respond to the TPP scenario by driving wedges within the G-7 members by bringing in Britain, Germany, France and Italy into the China- dominated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)- its answer to the US-dominated
China has also responded to the latest G-7 observations through their Foreign Ministry spokesperson- Hua Chunying stating from Beijing that “this G-7 Summit organized in Japan” tried to hype up “the South China Sea issue” and exaggerates tensions”. This, it was felt, would not be beneficial to stability in the South China Sea and would not “accord with the G-7’s position as a platform for managing the economies of developed nations”.
The G-7 leaders also discussed at length the various factors related to migration and human trafficking. They underscored that the evolving challenges would continue to increase globally and as such, there was need for all concerned to enhance global aid for the immediate and long-term needs of refugees and displaced persons. This dimension was particularly highlighted by representatives attending the meet on behalf of the European Union.
Last, but not the least was the general anxiety affirmed by some of the G-7 leaders with regard to Britain’s proposed referendum in the second half of June as to whether Britain should leave the European Union- known popularly as BREXIT. Although not formally discussed it was felt that if Britain did leave the EU, then the exit, “would be a serious risk for global growth”. British Prime Minister David Cameron, it may be noted, was tight-lipped and preferred not to wade into the debate and his aides pointed out that the Prime Minister was in Japan for the G-7 Summit and not to discuss the ramifications of BREXIT, its possible effect on Britain, its economy, or statistics related to figures of net migration into Britain in 2015.
In addition to the above the G-7 Summit assumed special importance for leaders from Bangladesh, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Chad who had been particularly invited to exchange on the principled basis of “outreach” their views on important issues with G-7 leaders .
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh used this opportunity to reach out and not only exchange views with the leadership of some of the seven industrialized nations but also with other leaders from international institutions who were present for the Summit. She had separate bilateral meetings with the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Prime Minister of Japan. There was also a meeting with President Sirisena of Sri Lanka.
Through her statements, discussions and also an article (included in a special anthology publication prepared for the Summit) Sheikh Hasina addressed significant facets related to issues like- healthcare and improvement of health facilities in developing nations, empowerment of women, achieving the different goals associated within the Sustainable Development paradigm and the challenges associated in the development of essential infrastructure in the developing countries. While doing so, she drew the attention of these leaders to the measures already taken by Bangladesh in resolving some of these challenges. She also drew their attention to the deteriorating aspects of climate change that had started creating a severe impact on vulnerable countries like Bangladesh. In this context reference was also made to the need to support developing countries in being able to address this issue effectively through the use of renewable energy.
The bilateral meeting with Cameron enabled Hasina to inform him of the initiatives undertaken by Bangladesh in the recent past on socio-economic issues. Cameron assured her of Britain being a partner and helping Bangladesh in meeting the goals set forth under SDG. He also reiterated his support in Bangladesh’s efforts to tackle terrorism.
Her meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister in Nagoya led to the reaffirmation that the excellent bilateral relations that exist between the two countries will move forward and also try to expand its presence in diverse areas within the matrix of overall development. During her meeting, Hasina recalled the extremely important role that Japan had played in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-devastated Bangladesh after 1971. In this context Japan was also thanked for her participation in improving the infrastructural framework of Bangladesh. Hope was also expressed that this important supportive role in our development activities would continue to grow within the present scenario. The Japanese Prime Minister reiterated his government’s earlier announcement that Japan was prepared to carry out and implement the necessary promised steps that had been made public earlier by Abe.
In Tokyo, Hasina spent a busy time formally opening the newly built Bangladesh Embassy and also facilitating exchange of views between Japanese business leaders and a delegation of 30 Bangladeshi businessmen associated with FBCCI and involved in different areas of economic activity in Bangladesh. The Japanese participants included the Chairman of the Japan-Bangladesh Committee for Commercial and Economic Cooperation (JBCCEC) and Chairman and CEO of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Other Japanese participants included representatives from different branches of Japanese industry associated with their financial institutions, their motorcycle and motor car industries.
In this meeting Hasina also underlined the economic opportunities of possible investment in Bangladesh with its young work force and the government’s decision to help those who would be investing in the many Special economic Zones being set up in different parts of Bangladesh. The Prime Minister also re-assured the Japanese participants that full security would be provided to those who would come to Bangladesh with the intention of foreign direct investment. She also pointed out that Bangladesh was presently working to upgrade existing economic segments- jute, fishing and textile manufacturing- and encouraging the RMG factories to become green and environment friendly. She also stated that within this scenario, Japan could help “in meeting Bangladesh’s needs for energy-intensive, climate resilient, water-intensive, solid waste-processing and low-wastage power distribution framework”. She also drew the attention of Japanese Banks to the prospect of investment in the Sovereign Bond and Equity instruments that would soon be issued by the Bangladesh authorities. She also drew the attention of the Japanese participants to the fact that Bangladesh and Japan could move together in the present “robotic evolution” that was taking place in the world and that Bangladesh would be happy to collaborate in areas like ‘imaginative software’, ‘shared/ cloud based processing’ and in evolving generic computing architecture.
Bangladeshi businessmen and industrialists accompanying Hasina were able to share their experiences and also foster interest in the Japanese participants. This was indeed an important gain for Bangladesh. At the end of the meeting it was also announced that JETRO would join hands with FBCCI in boosting Japanese investment in Bangladesh’s private sector.
For all these above reasons one is tempted to say that Bangladesh was able to successfully reach out to a world audience because of Japan’s ‘out-reach’ efforts during the G-7 Summit.
Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org