The top 5 lessons from the Osaka G20 summit

Updated 02 July 2019

The top 5 lessons from the Osaka G20 summit

  • Global trade, geopolitics and climate change were the weighty issues discussed in the Osaka G20 summit's public sessions
  • Intex Osaka, where the G20 leaders met, was easily secured thanks to its location on a man-made island in Osaka Bay

OSAKA: A G20 summit is a big thing. Big in terms of both organizational demands and the impact it can have on the international perception of the country that stages it. Japan understood that at the Osaka summit which has just ended, and Saudi Arabia will become increasingly aware of it in the months leading up to the Riyadh G20 next year.
The event is the only permanent arena for the leaders of the biggest economic and political powers to exchange face-to-face views, but it has no permanent locus. This is why it takes over the life of the country and the city that hosts it. Osaka was consumed with the event for the past couple of days, quite apart from the various meetings that were held in preparation for it.

Here are the top five lessons I learned from attending the summit in Japan.

1) The G20 is a serious forum for global decision-making. Sure, a lot of the event is about public relations and image — the fine details of the “family photo” were endlessly chewed over in the city itself and in the Twitterverse. But that was not the real meat of the G20. Vital issues such as global trade, geopolitics and climate change were the big topics, and they were the focus at the public sessions and, we can be sure, even more so at the private but more candid bilaterals. There will be genuine impact from the deliberations at Osaka.

2) But the PR is important too. The body language of the leaders, their reaction to their peers, and the little personal characteristics they exhibit tell us a lot about changing global relationships. Perhaps the most striking image to come out of the event was the handshake between Theresa May, Britain’s outgoing prime minister, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Donald Trump’s cosy little chat with Putin will have repercussions back home in the US. As for the politics of the “family photo,” well we all know how difficult families can be.

3) Osaka was a good venue. The International Exhibition Center, or Intex Osaka, where the leaders met and the media deliberated, was easily secured due to its location: on a man-made island in Osaka Bay. While not pleasing to the eye, it could almost have been purpose-built. Public transport in Japan is excellent and cheap, compensating for the lack of taxi access. The police and other security personnel were welcoming and helpful, even when their English was limited. Riyadh is going to have to up its game to better Osaka.

4) The press team that supported the Japanese G20 president were among the most efficient I’ve encountered. For such a big event, it would have been easy to let things slip, to miss timings, to forget individual journalists’ requests. This never happened to me. The quality of attributable briefing about the leaders’ confidential bilateral discussions was as high as you could expect.

5) Japan is well on its way to becoming a truly cashless society. I do not think I have ever visited a country before without folding some of its money in my wallet, even if just for use in emergencies. But I did not use an ATM once in Osaka. Credit and payment cards were accepted everywhere for every conceivable product or service. In fact, I never saw anybody pay with cash during the three days I was there.

Finally, one small moan: the weather at this time of year in Japan. Coming from London, I can take cold and wet; living in the Middle East, I can take hot and dry. But it’s hard to endure hot and wet, as it mostly was in Osaka. I doubt Riyadh will have that problem.

Frank Kane is an award-winning journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

  • “We share common values,” said Majid Al-Qasabi

TOKYO: Saudi Arabia has a “special relationship” with Japan, which is “reliable strategic partner and friend” of the Kingdom, the Saudi Minister for Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qasabi said on Monday.

The minister was speaking at the launch in Tokyo of the Japanese-language online edition of Arab News, in the latest stage of its global expansion. The event came on the eve of Tuesday’s ceremonial enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in the Japanese capital. “This is a great opportunity, a moment in history,” Al-Qasabi said.

The news website, published in Japanese and English, will focus on enabling the exchange of information between Japan and the Arab world in business, current affairs, and arts and culture. “It will be good to have news in Japanese so many Japanese can read about the Arab world,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono said at the launch.

Common values

“We share common values, we have a high respect for the elders and we think that the family is very important … to me we are friends and I think we need to work together.

“In order to do that we need to know what people in the Middle East are actually thinking, what is happening on a daily basis, and we haven’t got the source for that — but now Arab News is in Japan.

“This is a very good means to exchange information between the Middle East and Japan, so I am very much looking forward to it.”