Q2/2019 - Japanese G20 Presidency
At the G20 Summit in Osaka on 28 and 29 June 2019, world trade and climate protection dominated the agenda. The issue of data governance, raised by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, was one of the controversial topics at the Summit. It was discussed to which extent Internet governance was going to be integrated into the forthcoming reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In the G20 Osaka Leaders Declaration, the G20 states advocate a "Data Free Flow with Trust" (DFFT). To achieve this, so the Declaration, it is necessary to improve the interoperability of networks and legal frameworks. The interaction between trade and the digital economy is becoming ever closer.
However, the assessment of the Joint Initiative on eCommerce, launched by 78 governments at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, revealed a significant conflict. Three G20 states, India, Indonesia and South Africa, refused to approve the Osaka Declaration on Digital Economy . This document supports the Joint Initiative under the title "Osaka Track" and expresses the expectation that substantial progress will have been made when the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference is held in June 2020. India in particular regards the mandate for the Osaka Track as a restriction of national sovereignty and considers the principles of the Joint Initiative incompatible with its national eCommerce policy. India's law on data localisation, for example, contains restrictions with regard to cross-border data flows. On the other hand, both China and Russia, which have also passed laws on data localisation, have agreed to the Osaka Declaration on Digital Economy.
Another important topic at the G20 Summit was artificial intelligence. The Summit followed the recommendation of the G20 Digital Ministers and adopted a document with the title "G20 AI Principles".
The document contains ten principles for the political handling of the issue of "artificial intelligence". Artificial intelligence is seen as a great opportunity for economic growth and the future of work. State and private actors are encouraged to invest in artificial intelligence. In order to counteract possible undesirable developments from the outset, the development of artificial intelligence should be guided by values such as human rights and democracy. Particular reference is made to principles such as freedom, dignity and autonomy, privacy and data protection, non-discrimination and equality, diversity, fairness, social justice and internationally recognised labour rights. AI systems should be transparent and accountable, robust and secure. Appropriate responsibilities for the use of artificial intelligence must be clarified in advance. It is important to expand international cooperation, to secure the interoperability of newly emerging systems, and to ensure that the changes in the labour market associated with artificial intelligence are fair.
The G20-AI principles correspond to the OECD Recommendation of the Council for Artificial Intelligence adopted by the OECD Ministerial Conference in Paris on 19 May 2019. The OECD has been working for years as a kind of de facto secretariat for the G20 on all digitisation issues. The unanimous adoption of the OECD Recommendation as "G20 AI Principles" is astonishing in that it has also been approved by G20 members who are not members of the OECD. This applies in particular to China and Russia, both of which have declared in recent years that they want to become world leaders in artificial intelligence.
A third important document adopted by the G20 Summit was a Statement on Preventing Exploitation of the Internet for Terrorism and Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism. This G20 statement is based in part on the declaration made by the G7 Interior Ministers in Paris on 5 April 2019, but it is less concrete. On the one hand, the G20 statement reaffirms the commitment to an "open, free and secure Internet". On the other hand, it also states that the Internet must not be a "free haven for terrorists". The rule of law applies both offline and online. The online platforms are called upon to cooperate more closely with governments and to defend themselves against abuse by terrorists and violent propagandists. The document emphasizes that it is important that online platforms are transparent in this respect and accountable to the public. Like the G7, the G20 is committed to strengthening the role of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT).
The introduction of a global digital tax was also discussed in Osaka. For several years now, the G20 has been working together with the OECD to solve the problem of a digital tax at global level. Some countries, such as France, have found unilateral national solutions. Germany has declared that it will wait for the recommendations of the OECD. The G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Package (BEPS) had now proposed a "two pillar approach" via a special working group (BEPS Inclusive Framework) on how a global digital tax could be organised. The G20 countries expressed the hope that corresponding decisions could be taken after presentation of the final report of the OECD working group in 2020.
The Summit also discussed the issue of crypto currency, which had already been on the agenda at the meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers. A special dynamic was added to this debate by Facebook's announcement to introduce a new crypto currency (Libro). The G20 heads of government, however, do not yet see the stability of the global financial system endangered by crypto currencies in any way. Nevertheless they want to monitor the development very closely and encourage in particular the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to study the new developments carefully and, if necessary, to make appropriate recommendations to the G20 Finance Ministers.
G20 Digital Ministers Meeting, Tsukuba, 8 – 9 June 2019
On 8 and 9 June 2019, a meeting of the G20 Digital Ministers took place in Tsukuba. For the first time, this conference was held together with the G20 ministers responsible for trade. This was meant to document the close interaction between traditional trade and the digital economy. Paragraph 9 of the final declaration, the "G20 Ministerial Statement on Trade and Digital Economy" , draws attention to the "increasing convergence of the physical world and the virtual world".
Ministers from 12 other countries that are not members of the G20 but are important players in the global digital economy, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Singapore, Vietnam, Spain and the Netherlands, were invited to the conference. The event was preceded by a one-day "Multistakeholder Conference" with experts from business and civil society.
The two main outcomes of the G20 Ministerial Meeting were the G20 Digital Ministers' endorsement of the OECD Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence and the establishment of the concept of a Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT) as an important element for the forthcoming reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and for the WTO negotiations on e-commerce. The DFFT had been pushed by the Japanese G20 presidency.
Since the Chinese Presidency of the G20 in 2016, the annual G20 Digital Ministers' Conference (Hangzhou 2016, Dusseldorf 2017, Salta 2018) has developed into a platform at which general political topics on Internet governance are discussed at ministerial level far beyond the narrow range of the development of the digital economy. Noteworthy about the Tsukuba Conference was its clear commitment to the multistakeholder principle. In paragraph 13 of the final declaration, all G20 states share the view that a digital society must be built on mutual trust of all stakeholders, including governments, businesses, civil society, and the technical-academic community. The declaration demands the development of innovative governance models. Paragraph 23 states that "governance in the digital era needs to be not only innovation-friendly but also innovative itself". The G20 Digital Ministers are increasingly making use of the formulations that have emerged in the WSIS context, such as the Tunis Agenda of 2005, to express their opinion in this context. The G20 Digital Ministers recommend this discussion to be continued at the 14th IGF in November 2019 and at the WSIS Forum in Geneva in March 2020. This could be a first step towards a more holistic approach to Internet-related public policy issues. It remains to be seen to what extent this trend will continue under the G20 Presidency of Saudi Arabia in 2020.
During the term of the Japanese G20 Presidency there will also be a meeting of the G20 Foreign Ministers. It is scheduled for 22 and 23 November 2019 in Nagoya. In 2020, the G20 presidency will pass to Saudi Arabia, 2021 to Italy and 2022 to India.