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The 2021 G20 Summit in Rome: Major Priorities and India’s Role Within the Forum

The G20, bringing together a diverse grouping of 19 countries and the European Union (EU), has worked briskly since 1999 to build international consensus on tackling major issues relating to global economics, international financial stability, climate change mitigation and sustainable development. The intergovernmental forum comprises the world’s largest developed and emerging economies, with the members representing more than 80% of the world’s GDP, 75% of global trade and 60% of the total global population. The sheer size and strategic importance of the economies involved give the “Group of 20” a crucial responsibility to lay the foundation for long-term global economic growth.

The year 2021 presents the world with unique challenges unencountered in the past. The incoming shock of a global health crisis in the name of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic upended the daily functioning of people and economies worldwide. A result of these profound changes is the magnification of other systemic burdens, such as climate change and inequality, in every corner of the world. It is now recognized that local and regional challenges have assumed an urgency that is global in reach, and the process towards building back a better world requires decision-making and implementation on a scale unhindered by borders. The 2021 G20, under Italian Presidency, is hence focused on sharing experiences and learnings from the past year to develop plans that would set the tone for long-term growth that the G20 says should be ‘resilient, sustainable and green’. The three interconnected pillars of action that arise from these objectives are: People, Planet, Prosperity. Here, multilateralism has found a new meaning in being indispensable to ensure a swift pandemic response in line with guaranteeing equity and access to healthcare, building up resilience to future shocks and promoting overall prosperity.

In this context, India’s standing as one of the influential emerging powers is only going to gain more firm ground. For the first time, India will hold the G20 presidency from December 2022 and will convene the leaders’ summit in 2023. This event is a testament to the country’s ever-increasing efforts at spearheading growth and attracting global investor interest. The latest Investment Trends Monitor published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) notes that while the widespread downturn in economic activity led to a decline in global foreign direct investment (FDI) by 42% in 2020, FDI received by India grew 13% in the same year. Supporting this outlook, the UNCTAD’s latest annual World Investment Report ranks India as the fifth largest FDI recipient globally for 2020, up from the previous eighth position. Amid weak global investor sentiment, the country has continued to fervently push to reform FDI policy, improve investment facilitation and strengthen ease of doing business. In the first quarter (April-June) of the 2021-22 financial year too, Government data shows that India received total FDI of $ 17.6 Billion, marking an increase of 168% year-on-year. This determination to rise against the odds has positioned India on an attractive platform to be considered as a strategic and compelling partner in the post-Covid-19 global recovery.

As economies slowly open their borders, India is already on the road to an upswing. The country is steadily boosting its vaccination drive, with the cumulative number of vaccine doses administered crossing 862 Million as of 27 September 2021, according to Government data. The development and production of indigenous vaccines – Covaxin (Bharat Biotech) and ZyCOV-D (Zydus Cadila) are a testimony to India’s capability in healthcare technology. It is clear that wide-ranging support from India across several knowledge areas will be required to start taking concrete steps on the path to post-Covid-19 recovery. The country is well placed to take the lead, with the International Monetary Fund estimating that India will grow by 9.5% in 2021, as against a projected global growth rate of 6%. Adding to these factors, India’s commitment to multilateral cooperation, innovation and focus on climate change and sustainability have ensured its pivotal role in the G20 agenda. India is now at a stage where its experience, guidance and leadership is indispensable in the G20 problem-solving process.

As a precursor to the Leaders’ Summit to be held in Rome during 30-31 October 2021, Shri Piyush Goyal (Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and Textiles) participated in this year’s G20 Sherpas’ meeting during 15-16 September 2021 as India’s G20 Sherpa. Chaired by Ambassador Luigi Mattiolo, Italy’s G20 Sherpa, the discussion was centered on a range of themes relevant for the signing of the Draft Rome Declaration at the main summit. India’s recent progress on each of the issues was highlighted in detail, ranging from sustainability and the environment to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The outcome of the meeting indicated that if there was one prominent lesson from the past year, it is that India’s management of the dire economic challenges have only strengthened its ability to play a constructive role in jointly leading the post COVID-19 world order.

The author of the article is Ranjana Prasad