Commentary, Economy

Turkey’s expanding G-20 agenda

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Turkey could be very active in pushing for a better deal from the IMF and the World Trade Organization (WTO) for developing countries in the context of crisis prevention strategies and the advancement of the Doha Development Agenda.

Even though the Annual G20 Summit in Brisbane has ended, we are set for the official launch of Turkey’s presidency and detailed announcements concerning its policy agenda for the year 2015. The Final Communique of the Brisbane summit summarized the ambitious remit of the platform as promoting growth, strengthening global institutions, increasing employment – especially for women – reducing poverty and inequality, facilitating trade liberalization, stimulating infrastructure investments, supporting food security, reforming the international tax system, fighting corruption, promoting energy collaboration, improving energy efficiency and addressing climate change. Turkey’s 2015 agenda will considerably expand this already wide array of policy objectives by incorporating various forms of developmental co-operation, international migration, fighting the Ebola epidemic and ethno-sectarian extremism.

In this process, Turkey aims to raise its national profile within the G20 while at the same time raising the profile of the G20 as a major global platform. Notwithstanding its centrality in global economic governance in the aftermath of the global crisis, the G20 does not have any organizational presence or a General Secretariat. Despite opposition from some of the industrialized states, Turkey will be rightly pressing for the formation of a permanent Secretariat in Istanbul. The diverse membership of the G20 includes countries which host leading financial speculators versus countries that fall victim to speculation; countries with considerable current account deficits versus countries with current account surpluses; democracies versus autocracies; developed versus developing countries – rule makers versus rule takers in the global system. Moreover, the membership of the G20 was structured in a self-selective manner. Many countries that were left out of the G20 either protested or tried to find backdoor tactics to get somehow involved in the proceedings. The limits of the official mandate of the G20 are not strictly specified; instead it has an ever expanding mandate which occasionally creates problems of political legitimacy and crosscutting jurisdiction with international organizations. These are some of the organizational problems that the Turkish leadership will work to alleviate and in turn empower global ownership of the platform.

Politically, on the other hand, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries and major emerging powers perceive the G20 as a functional platform in which they could engage with major global powers as a caucus group. But, they avoid investing too much political capital into the G20 as an international collaboration venue and instead implement a “hedging strategy” by demanding the reform of formal international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In terms of joint financial initiatives such as the rehabilitation of the European economy, they prefer to take a backseat as well.

Turkey could be regarded as a “middle power” comparable to G20 members such as Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and Australia. Traditionally, middle powers cherish multilateral institutions and a rule-based international system to balance the unilateral temptations of great powers. Indeed, the middle powers in the G20 have been the most ardent supporters of the development of the forum as an inclusive platform of global economic governance. As a middle power, Turkey should also select niche areas to focus its economic diplomacy within the G-20 process, engage in actions as a policy entrepreneur and mediate between global and emerging powers on sensitive issues and try to form coalitions toward global public goods. For instance, Turkey could be very active in pushing for a better deal from the IMF and the World Trade Organization (WTO) for developing countries in the context of crisis prevention strategies and the advancement of the Doha Development Agenda. In terms of wider political and humanitarian issues such as the Middle East peace process, international migration problems, or the Ebola epidemic mentioned in the historic speech of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Brisbane, Turkey gave the first signals of a confident policy entrepreneur; concrete policy proposals are bound to follow.

Resource: Daily Sabah, 22 November 2014

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Sadık Ünay worked as an academic at the Universities of Manchester, Birmingham, Huddersfield in the UK; and at Maltepe, Yıldız Teknik and İstanbul Şehir universities in Turkey. He is the author of Kalkınmacı Modernlik: Küresel Ekonomi Politik ve Türkiye (Developmentalist Modernity: Global Political Economy and Turkey) (2013) and Neoliberal Globalization and Institutional Reform: Political Economy of Development Planning in Turkey (2006). He currently teaches at Istanbul University.