United Nations shares Asia-Pacific concerns with G20 Presidency

Rising international food prices, continuing economic uncertainty in the United States and euro zone as well as volatile capital flows to the region were among Asia-Pacific concerns shared with a high-level representative from the Mexican presidency of the G20 at a United Nations forum here today.

Representatives of key member States of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) attended a special briefing at ESCAP on the outcome of the Los Cabos G20 Summit by Ms. Berenice Diaz Ceballos, Chief of Staff to the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Government of Mexico and Mexican Sous Sherpa to the G20.

Despite the preeminence of traditional economic and financial issues, this year the development agenda consolidated its position as a priority for the G20. As Ms. Diaz Ceballos noted, the emphasis included infrastructure development (in particular sustainable urban transportation systems), cooperation with developing and least developed countries, innovative sources of public and private financing for development projects and disaster risk management.

“Leaders recognized the value of tools and strategies to better prevent disasters, protect populations and assets, and financially manage their economic impacts.”

Anisuzzaman Chowdhury, Director, Macroeconomic Policy and Development Division of ESCAP emphasized the role of ESCAP as the most inclusive inter-governmental organization in the region and thanked the Mexican Presidency of G20 for reaching out to non-G20 countries. He outlined key issues of concern to Asia and the Pacific.

“As ESCAP has shown, high and volatile food prices are pushing a large number of people into poverty in the region,” Mr. Chowdhury said, noting that besides drought in major crop growing nations, “financialization of commodities and speculation are contributing to high volatility of food and other primary commodities.”

Asia-Pacific countries hope that the G20 Leaders will address issues related to regulation of speculative activities in commodity markets as well as the “disruptive impacts of volatile capital flows on developing countries.”

“This is an important source of macroeconomic instability in the emerging economies of the Asia Pacific region and we are disappointed that important related issues, which were discussed earlier by the G20, such as the reform of the international monetary system and consideration of a global tax on capital flows, were dropped from the agenda,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

Highlighting another key legacy of the Summit, Ms. Diaz Ceballos outlined the creation of a new paradigm of green growth that reconciles economic growth with protection of the environment and of natural resources. “Mexico’s G20 Presidency designed a pragmatic agenda that included issues critical for green growth, such as the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, and cleaner urban transportation systems.”

ESCAP commended the Summit’s focus on labour standards, women and vulnerable people, which often fall off the radar when big issues are debated. ESCAP also applauded the commitment of the G20 Leaders at the Los Cabos Summit to sustainable development and the fight against climate change and disparities.

“This will require a rebalancing of economic growth patterns, so that they provide opportunities for employment, businesses, and access to education health and other social services to all, while using natural resources in a sustainable manner,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

Over the past three years, ESCAP has helped identify Asia-Pacific priorities and forge a regional input to the G20 agenda by organizing high-level consultations and welcomed the emphasis placed by the Mexican G20 Presidency on outreach activities to help make G20 deliberations more inclusive.