The G20 Summit in Rome

Questions and answers The G20 Summit in Rome

The 20 leading industrial and emerging nations met in Rome on 30 and 31 October 2021 for their annual summit meeting. President Biden of the USA attended for the first time, while this was Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sixteenth G20 summit. As is customary, the Federal Finance Minister accompanied the Federal Chancellor to the G20 summit.

Family photo of G20 summit participants before the first session.

The participants at the G20 summit met for a family photo before the first session.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

Where did this year’s summit take place?

Italy took over the presidency of the G20 in December 2020. As a result, the annual summit, hosted by Italy, was held in Rome from 30 to 31 October 2021. This was the first time the G20 heads of state and government met in person since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Italy’s G20 presidency in numbers:

175 events
20 ministerial meetings
2 special summits on health and Afghanistan
62 working group meetings
60 Finance Track meetings
8 Engagement Groups

What was on the agenda?

Under the motto of the Italian presidency – “People, Planet, Prosperity” – G20 leaders discussed the following priority issues during three sessions:

  • World economy and global health
  • Climate change and environment
  • Sustainable development

The fight against global warming took on particular importance given the immediate proximity of the international Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Other topics for discussion included the economic impact of the pandemic and how to produce and distribute vaccines fairly.

Led jointly by Germany and South Africa, the Vaccine Manufacturing Working Group on boosting global vaccine production presented a report to the G20 which supported the COVAX initiative and made important core recommendations. See here for more information.

The summit programme included “side events” where participants discussed supporting smaller, medium-sized and women-led businesses and the role of the private sector in fighting climate change.

Full information on the G20 summit in Rome is available from the Italian presidency homepage.

Were bilateral talks planned for the Federal Chancellor?

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel held bilateral fringe talks during the summit, including a meeting with President Biden of the USA. These meetings always discuss global issues and questions of bilateral cooperation.

The Federal Chancellor invited Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to join her for the bilateral meetings.

Who participated in the summit?

In addition to the G20 states, the European Union and permanent guest Spain, the Italian presidency invited Singapore and the Netherlands to attend. They were joined in Rome by representatives of regional alliances such as the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Other international organisations also regularly attend G20 summits, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations (UN).

What exactly is the G20?

The G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation, according to the resolution passed by its heads of state and government at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009. Like the G7, it is an informal forum without its own administrative apparatus or permanent representation.

The G20 countries meet for an annual summit at the invitation of the respective presidency. Each year, a new member of the group takes on the presidency. Accordingly, Indonesia will take over the presidency from Italy on 1 December 2021, followed in turn by India and Brazil in subsequent years.

More information is available on the Federal Government’s G20 page.

Who belongs to the group?

The Group of Twenty (G20)’s members are the 19 leading industrial and emerging nations, along with the European Union. These are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA.

How powerful is the G20? The G20 states currently represent over 80 percent of global GDP, 75 percent of world trade and around 60 percent of the world’s population. They also produce 80 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions.

How does the G20 work?

Rather than functioning as an international organisation, the G20 is an informal body. In other words, its decisions are not legally binding, but the obligations taken on by its member states have a not inconsiderable political binding effect.

Each G20 summit publishes the key outcomes in declarations and communiqués. The summits also produce accompanying reports, initiatives and action plans, as well as providing opportunities for heads of state and government to meet in person.

The G20 Leaders’ Declaration can be found in the Summary of G7/G8/G20 summit documents.

What has the G20 achieved so far?

In the thirteen years since it was established, the G20 has achieved some major successes by developing economic policy measures, blazing the trail for global agreements and providing impetus for national policy. Here are four examples:

  • The G20’s coordinated fiscal and monetary policy prevented the escalation of the 2008 global financial crisis.
  • The G20 established BEPS, the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting initiative, as a means of combating tax evasion by multinational companies.
  • G20 members committed themselves to ambitious climate protection goals in November 2015, paving the way for the Paris Agreement.
  • In 2017, the G20 established its Compact with Africa initiative to improve conditions for investment in Africa.

Which objectives is Germany working towards?

The Federal Government regards the G20 format as a crucial means of coordinating multilateral issues, including climate and health. The most recent example of the critical importance of communicating with G20 partners can be seen in the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the Federal Government’s main concerns is always to keep the perspective of developing countries in sight, with a particular focus on Africa. The G20 holds a global responsibility in this respect. As recently as late August, the Federal Chancellor organised a conference as part of the Compact with Africa initiative.

Federal Government reports: Following each G20 summit, the Federal Government reports to the committees of the German Bundestag and the general public on the outcomes of the meetings. You can find Federal Government reports on G7 and G20 summits from previous years at Federal Government reports and declarations.

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