Japan PM Shinzo Abe uses Davos address to put trade, climate change at center of G20 agenda

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he will seek to use his chairmanship of the Group of 20 leading economies to rebuild trust in the global trade system. (Screenshot/WEF)
Updated 23 January 2019
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Japan PM Shinzo Abe uses Davos address to put trade, climate change at center of G20 agenda

DAVOS, Switzerland: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he will seek to use his chairmanship of the Group of 20 leading economies to rebuild trust in the global trade system.
His speech to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps was significant at a time when a bitter Sino-US trade dispute is one of several factors threatening to bring about a sharp slowdown in global growth.
“Japan is determined to preserve and committed to enhancing the free, open, and rules-based international order,” he told delegates.
“I call on all of you ... to rebuild trust toward the system for international trade. That should be a system that is fair, transparent, and effective in protecting intellectual property rights and also in such areas as e-commerce and government procurement.”
With the French, British and US leaders canceling their visits because of more pressing concerns at home, Abe is one of only three Group of Seven leaders attending the annual event in Davos, where business executives are worried about the damage that populism and trade protectionism are inflicting on the global economy.
Abe said Japan, as chair of this year’s gathering of the Group of 20 (G20), will also seek to spearhead discussions on climate change and ways to facilitate use of digital data while protecting intellectual property.
The comments underscore Japan’s hope to rally support from some of its G20 counterparts in pushing for a multilateral approach in solving trade frictions.
That could help Tokyo fend off pressure from Washington to open up its politically sensitive agriculture market and take other steps to fix bilateral trade imbalances, analysts say.
Japan has to be consistent on the need to promote free trade “and shouldn’t change this stance even if the United States is always talking about doing a bilateral deal,” said Takeshi Niinami, head of brewer Suntory Holdings Ltd. and an economic adviser to Abe.
Australia, Singapore and other Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries could help Japan make free trade a key topic of debate at the G20, he told Reuters.
At his previous Davos visit in 2014, Abe pledged to pull the economy out of stagnation with his “Abenomics” mix of fiscal spending, ultra-easy monetary policy and steps to boost Japan’s potential growth via labor market reform and deregulation.
Five years later, the boost to growth from Abenomics is fading, inflation remains far below the Bank of Japan’s target and critics point to a lack of progress on deregulation.
Abe sought to counter such criticism, saying that through job-creating policies he had demolished “a wall of despair and pessimism on Japan” that had existed five years ago.
He said Japan hoped to build a G20 consensus on the need to reduce plastic waste flowing into the oceans, and coordinate on global usage of digital data without infringing on personal privacy and intellectual property.
“I must say that spending money for a green earth and a blue ocean, once deemed costly, is now a growth generator,” he said.
“Decarbonization and profit making can happen in tandem. We policy makers must be held responsible to make it happen, as I will be stressing in Osaka this year.”
People close to the premier have said Abe is keen to use the G20 summit in Osaka, western Japan, in June to boost his poll ratings ahead of an upper house election looming mid-year.


Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me. Listen to the scientists’

Updated 21 sec ago

Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me. Listen to the scientists’

WASHINGTON: Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, delivered a pointed message before a US congressional hearing on Wednesday: “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
The 16-year-old founder of the “Fridays For Future” weekly school walkouts to demand government climate-change action submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the hearing in lieu of testimony. It urged rapid, unprecedented changes to the way people live in order to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by 2030.
“People in general don’t seem to be aware of how severe the crisis” is, Thunberg said, urging lawmakers to “unite behind the science” and take action, pleading that people treat climate change “like the existential crisis it is.”
Thunberg was one of four students invited to a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to provide the next generation’s views on climate change.
She has been in Washington since last week to join US and indigenous activists to build up support for a global climate strike on Friday and pressure lawmakers to take action on climate change.
Her first appearance took place in front of the White House on Friday, where she encouraged fellow young activists to keep fighting to be heard. She did not mention US President Donald Trump, a climate change denier who moved to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement early in his tenure, in her remarks.
On Wednesday, Trump announced he plans to revoke California’s ability https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-trump/trump-confirms-us-will-revoke-california-waiver-to-require-cleaner-cars-idUSKBN1W3257 to set its own more stringent emissions standards for vehicles — the latest move in his administration’s multipronged attack on the state’s efforts to reduce vehicle emissions that could slow the deployment of electric and more efficient vehicles.
At the hearing on Wednesday was also 21-year-old conservative climate-change advocate Benji Backer from Wisconsin. He told lawmakers that young conservatives also favor climate change action, but through an approach focused on technology and allowing the continued use of fossil fuels. “As a proud American, as a life-long conservative and as a young person, I urge you to accept climate change for the reality it is and respond accordingly. We need your leadership,” he said.
While he praised Thunberg and other climate activists for putting the issue at the forefront of politics, he said there was time to take more measured action.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, Thunberg met former President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Obama described the teenager on Twitter as “already one of the planet’s greatest advocates.”
Later on Wednesday, she joined seven young Americans who have sued the US government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They urged political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.
At the panel, Republican representatives praised the students for raising awareness about climate change but disagreed over what action the US should take.
Representative Garret Graves from Louisiana, said his state was affected by rising sea levels and that he supported the US emission reduction target enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, but he criticized the pact for allowing emerging economies like China to continue to emit greenhouse gases.
“I think that signing on to an agreement...that allows for China to have a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030 is inappropriate,” he said.
Thunberg responded that in her home country, Sweden, people similarly criticize the United States for not taking enough action.
Another activist on the panel, 17-year-old Jamie Margolin from Seattle, called out lawmakers for taking too long to enact climate change policies.
“The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today pleading for a livable earth should not fill you with pride; it should fill you with shame,” she said.
Thunberg and the youth leaders also met with Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Thunberg is expected to make a speech on Wednesday evening in the House.