All eyes on Osaka as Japan sets ambitious G20 agenda

US President Donald Trump’s motorcade gets a low-key reception on the eve of the Osaka G20 summit. The forum takes place amid heightened tensions in the Gulf and a bitter US-China trade war. (AFP)
Updated 28 June 2019

All eyes on Osaka as Japan sets ambitious G20 agenda

  • Issues to be tackled range from sustainable growth and trade reform to the digital economy and aging populations
  • Next year, the G20 summit will be held in an Arab country for the first time, with Saudi Arabia as host

JEDDAH: World leaders meeting in the Japanese city of Osaka for the 14th Group of Twenty (G20) summit will focus on issues concerning trade, demographics, the environment and the digital economy.

Japan’s third-largest city rolled out the red carpet for dignitaries attending the two-day forum on June 28-29.

Preparations had been underway for months for the event, which coincides with a heated US-China trade dispute as well as heightened tensions in the Gulf region, source of most of the world’s oil supplies.

The G20 summit has become the most anticipated global gathering since the club’s heads of state met in November 2008 to discuss the international financial crisis. Informal chats between leaders and bilateral sideline meetings will attract as much attention as the main proceedings.

Last month, policy recommendations developed by a Japanese task force were unveiled for consideration by the G20 leaders who are currently meeting in Osaka. They are intended to enable the member countries to implement the ambitious agenda set by Japan as the new G20 president.

The summit will focus broadly on four topics: Promoting strong, sustainable and balanced growth; greater provision of international public goods and resilience; digitalization of the economy; and aging populations.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in Osaka to join world leaders attending the G20 summit. (AFP)

“Maintaining continuity and coherence with the previous discussion is very important,” Koji Tomita, the Japanese government’s representative to the G20 Summit, told Arab News, referring to last year’s meeting in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

“We believe Argentina did a great job on many points. Osaka will take place just six months after the Buenos Aires summit, so continuity will be more important than usual. We would like to point to two specific areas where we want to deepen the discussion that we had in Buenos Aires on trade.”

Tomita said that doubts about the benefits of globalization, which have been blamed for protectionist movements worldwide and the US-China tariff wars, will not be allowed to “hijack” the discussions in Osaka. However, reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be high on the agenda.

Depending on global economic financial concerns, each chair country’s task force incorporates a combination of regional and global issues into the summit agenda. In the run-up to Osaka, ministerial-level meetings and conferences of eight engagement groups have produced a number of recommendations, policy briefs and communiques.

“WTO reform is an urgent task because if you look at the situation with the global economy, it is obvious that trade tensions are starting to weigh heavily on growth prospects,” Tomita said. “The issue goes straight to the heart of G20’s mission, which is to maintain sustainable growth.”

The summit will take place at Osaka’s International Exhibition Center, or Intex, on the city’s waterfront, while world leaders will be hosted in the city’s northern Umeda area.

Officials of Osaka prefecture explained to Arab News last month how they planned to accommodate the 30,000 members of 37 different delegations expected to descend on the city in the run-up to the summit.

All 13 five-star hotels in Osaka are expected to be filled to capacity, but this does not mean life in the city will grind to a halt. Authorities have increased public transport capacity to ensure that the streets are clear for VIP traffic during the summit.


• 20 - Permanent member states

• 17 Invited guest countries and organizations

• 6.4% - Saudi Arabia’s share of total G20 forex reserves

• 80% - G20 members’ share of global GDP

Takashi Harada, assistant secretary-general at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and secretariat for the G20 Summit, said the organizers had three key objectives: Providing security for leaders taking part in the summit; ensuring a comfortable stay for visitors; and promoting Japan, particularly Osaka and the Kansai area, to an international audience.

“Osaka deserves to host the G20 meeting. It is a highly traditional city with a thousand-year history,” Harada said.

Osaka’s unique and diverse culture differs from that of Japan’s capital, Tokyo. In addition to being the capital of Japanese comedy and the country’s “kitchen,” Osaka is spearheading Japan’s transformation from a homogenous society to a diverse one. The city is the gateway to opening Japan to the world, Harada told Arab News.

Tomita said: “The G20 has a tradition of working in a troika. The present chair is assisted by the previous chair and the next chair.” This system was adopted at the G20 summit in Cannes, France, in 2011, with the three chairs working together to ease the transition process.

The G20 summit will be held in an Arab country for the first time in 2020, with Saudi Arabia as host — a decision that was announced at the end of the 2017 meeting in Hamburg and confirmed via the final communique in Buenos Aires.

The Riyadh summit’s agenda is expected to include financial to social issues. Saudi Arabia is due to unveil its taskforce later this year, after Japan’s presidency comes to an official end and the baton is passed to the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia is fully committed to the G20’s objectives and to the stability and prosperity of the international economic system,” said a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency in April.

Tomita said: “We have already been working with the Saudi and the Argentine teams, so the troika is a driving force behind the preparation for the summit in Osaka.

“I had the pleasure of traveling to Riyadh recently. I visited the secretariat for next year’s summit and, quite frankly, I was extremely impressed with the resources Saudi Arabia is investing in the preparation for the summit.” 


Brazilian agriculture minister hails multibillion-dollar trade bond with Saudi Arabia

Updated 18 September 2019

Brazilian agriculture minister hails multibillion-dollar trade bond with Saudi Arabia

  • Around 96 percent of total Saudi exports to Brazil were in crude oil and other items including fertilizers

RIYADH: Brazil’s agriculture minister on Tuesday hailed the multibillion-dollar trade bond between her country and Saudi Arabia and vowed to explore new export opportunities.

During a visit to Riyadh as part of a tour of Arab states, Tereza Cristina, the Brazilian minister of agriculture, livestock and supply, pledged to further boost economic relations with the Kingdom.

Speaking to Arab News at the Saudi-Brazilian Agricultural Business Forum held at the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC), Cristina said the Kingdom was a major economic partner for Brazil in the Middle East, especially in the agricultural sector, and stressed the need to diversify opportunities.

“This is my first visit to the Kingdom. There is a long relationship between the two countries and enhancing relations in trade is important.”

According to Cristina, Saudi Arabia was the seventh-biggest importer of Brazilian agricultural products. “We can diversify our exports to the Kingdom, limited not only to meat, beef, poultry, and sugar but also other products,” she added.

The minister said that during her visit her country had agreed with Saudi authorities to first-time exports of Brazilian nuts, several fruits, and egg products.

“I am here to speak with the Saudi authorities about the new government in Brazil led by President Jair Bolsonaro, how the new system is working and what we can offer in very frank, honest and transparent relations between the two countries.”

She pointed out that Bolsonaro would be visiting Saudi Arabia for the Future Investment Initiative (FII 2019) forum being held in Riyadh in October.


• Bilateral trade between Brazil and Saudi Arabia had reached $2.95 billion (SR11.07 billion) by the end of August 2019.

• Brazil’s top 10 product groups of exports to the Kingdom were poultry, sugar, oil seeds and derivatives, beef, armaments, cereals, ores, wood and steel products and machinery.

Bilateral trade between Brazil and Saudi Arabia had reached $2.95 billion (SR11.07 billion) by the end of August 2019, she said, around a 2 percent increase on the same period in 2018, valued at $2.89 billion. Brazilian exports made up $1.35 billion of the figure with Saudi sales to Brazil hitting $1.6 billion.

Brazil’s top 10 product groups of exports to the Kingdom were poultry, sugar, oil seeds and derivatives, beef, armaments, cereals, ores, wood and steel products, and machinery.

Around 96 percent of total Saudi exports to Brazil were in crude oil. Other items during 2018 were fertilizers, plastic and aluminum products, and chemicals.

According to the Brazilian embassy, the South American country’s agricultural and livestock sector products represented 84 percent ($1.76 billion) of the total value of its exports to Saudi in 2018.

Addressing the agricultural forum, which was also attended by Khaled Al-Aboudi, managing director of the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC), Christina pointed to possible future export openings for products such as dairy and fresh fruit.

While the Kingdom sought to achieve food security, Brazil had many opportunities in the agricultural field, she added.

Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply Tereza Cristina at the Saudi-Brazilian Agricultural Business Forum in Riyadh. (AN photo/Ahmed Fathi)

Al-Aboudi said that he was looking forward to further cooperation between the two countries in the agriculture, food and livestock sectors. He added that the meeting offered the chance to strengthen economic ties through developing joint investments and exchanging information on investment opportunities.

Saudi Arabia was the second stop on the minister’s tour of Arab countries which began in Egypt and will take in Kuwait and the UAE.

In Riyadh, Cristina also held a meeting with the Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Mansour H. Al-Mushaiti and was told that the Kingdom needed fodder for animal feed, which Brazil could supply.

She also met with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority CEO Hisham bin Saad Al-Jadhey and discussed issues of mutual interest.

On the fires that have been raging in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, Cristina told Arab News: “Yes, there is a problem, but the whole issue has been widely exaggerated and blown out of proportion. It’s a very complex issue and the Brazilian government is taking measures to control it and address the problems.

“Right now, it is a dry season in the Amazon region, which is a season when we see fire incident naturally,” she added.