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Transcript of Media Briefing by G20 Sherpa on visit of Prime Minister to Japan to attend G20 Summit (June 21, 2019)

June 24, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, Namaskar, good afternoon and welcome to this special briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Osaka, Japan for the 14th G20 Summit from 27-29 June. For our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, this will be the sixth time that he will be participating at the G20 Summit. Apart from participating at the summit itself Prime Minister will also have bilateral meetings. He will also participate at few plurilateral meetings and we will announce those meetings closer to the date.

I have the pleasure to welcome here on the dais Prime Minister’s Sherpa for the G20 Summit Shri Suresh Prabhu. I also have Joint Secretary (MER) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Shri Suresh Reddy. We will start with the initial remarks from the Sherpa and after that we will take the questions from the audience. Sir over to you.

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: Good afternoon friends. As you know over a period of time and particularly after the peak economic shock of 2008 the G20 has become a very important global platform for dealing with, to begin with, economic issues and now over a period of time many other important global issues. And G20 being obviously consisting of such members who together contribute to almost 85% of global GDP, economic issues assume great importance and particularly in the light of so many interesting developments recently, in the light of the year about global slowdown, I am sure one of the very important issue that will be discussed in the G20 Summit in Osaka later next week will be the economic issue.

Economic issues have been already an important aspect and one of it is free trade and economic growth because we have already experienced that slower the global trade, it immediately impacts adversely the economic growth and therefore it’s a challenge how to bring in more trade and that too also removing all the hurdles that have been created over a period of time for easy flow of goods.

And as far the global trade and the free trade and the economic growth which are inexplicably linked to each other; will be discussed obviously. Society 50 is a very important item for discussion because you have already seen that now globally societies are changing and how to deal with that.

Other issues also get discussed and one of them inevitably is linked to energy and environment, they are the two sides of the same coin. What kind of energy we are going to use and India will be able to showcase its great remarkable strides into changing the energy mix which in turn can also result into global change of energy mix.

We are already committed to have 100 thousand MW of solar, 70 thousand MW of wind and India being, thanks to our Prime Minister’s leadership, the pioneer and co-founder of International Solar Alliance along with France which was set up in Delhi; is going to result into huge use of solar energy globally which in turn will bring down the prices for solar energy because we have seen it in the case of mobile phones when now almost 6 billion people using mobile phones obviously the prices have crashed. So when solar energy will be used on that scale prices will fall.

So energy is an issue and if we change the energy mix it will impact the environment. If we use more solar energy, more renewable energy less will be the greenhouse gas emission which will be good for the environment. So that is going to be one important issue.

Global growth can also be improved by building more infrastructure but building quality infrastructure which will be also climate proof and created in such a way that all these global changes will be incorporated in that so that quality infrastructure is going to be one of the important things and India has been saying this from last five years because even in 2014 when the G20 was held in Australia we had put forward this view strongly that global growth can be positively impacted if you bring infrastructure globally because infrastructure will create demand.

Global health and ageing and rightly Japan being the presidency for this particular summit, ageing is an important issue not only for Japan but for most of the developed countries. So ageing and global health will be an important issue.

Climate Change on stand alone basis which is energy environment aspect also will be discussed. Marine plastic waste, oceans are a big sufferers and victims of global use of plastic so therefore we have to discuss those. We will be very clearly discussing some very important issues like energy security, financial stability, reform multilateralism because we feel that the only way forward is multilateralism but that does not mean it should not be reformed. So multilateralism has to be a way of life but has to be in a much better way.

We strongly feel that WTO should be strengthened and that should be the body through which the global trade should be regulated. Return of fugitive economic offenders including illegally acquired assets is part of Prime Minister’s agenda of ensuring all ill gotten wealth, black money and those who are responsible for it and therefore are economic offenders and therefore they don’t want to be facing the legal consequences of that and therefore they want to flee from the country, how they can be brought to book.

Terrorism, which is not just India’s issue but India is highlighting it being the biggest sufferer of terrorism, we would like to take it up. Portable social security schemes which Prime Minister has very successfully launched, which were endorsed by people in 2019 elections and therefore brought Prime Minister back with a much better majority.

Disaster resilient infrastructure which is part of quality infrastructure but now with so many natural calamities taking place how do you have resilient infrastructure which will withstand all these disasters is a very important challenge and we, again played a very important role when President Obama was US President and President Hollande was the President of France, we had the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

We feel that that agreement should be taken forward and also we feel that food security should be an important element because despite of the fact that world has witnessed huge exponential growth in food production there are still places where still hunger has not been banished fully and therefore how do you deal with that is an important issue. With India’s active participation and with India’s active support there are going to be four sessions in Summit, Global Economy – Trade & Investment, Innovation in Digital Economy and Artificial Intelligence, Addressing Inequalities and Realizing and Inclusive and Sustainable World and obviously Climate Change Energy and Environment which can be clubbed into one.

So Prime Minister will be there leading India’s stand on all these issues. I will also be going a little earlier as a Sherpa for G20 to prepare for many of the issues and of course I will be there with my other colleagues. We look forward to a very positive outcome from this summit and as I said G20 though started as a very informal gathering has now become almost like a regular annual summit meeting and over a period of time every presidency added a new dimension to the issue that are discussed and this has now become a very important global platform so not just 20 countries participating but there are some other countries like from Africa some of the countries will be participating. It is prerogative of the Presidency any other country that they feel like and this time also there will be more than 20 countries participating but the grouping is of course G20 and therefore we really look forward to a very positive outcome from the G20 Summit in Osaka later next week.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Sir, thank you very much. Now you can ask questions.

Question: Just wanted to know whether there will be a meeting of the Finance Ministers of G20 countries this time as well as it used to be?

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: You know there are two tracks. One is a finance track and the other is Sherpa track but this time now we are almost closer to the summit, so I don’t think there is going to be any finance minister’s meeting. Now there is not going to be any more finance minister meeting before the summit.

Question: In every G20 meeting Prime Minister has been giving 10 pointers or something like whether it is on black money or terrorism, this time around also is this expected and what would be the issue?

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: See, what Prime Minister will be speaking only Prime Minister can tell you and you know about what Prime Minister has spoken once he speaks about it. But as I said our highlight is very clear. We are sure that we want to make sure that some of the issues of India’s concerns, which not only concerns India alone but India is expressing these concerns on behalf of the whole world.

Terrorism, global economic stability, bringing in multilateralism in a reformed form, ensuring that climate energy environment issues are properly dealt with, building quality infrastructure globally, economic offenders and fugitives and others who are running away and try to take shelter in some other country, so these are the kind of issues which I think are relevant to all the countries in the world. So I can definitely say these are India’s priorities, of course you will be very happy when you will hear Prime Minister speaking and then you will report on it in a much better way.

Question: Mr. Prabhu it is reported that India is opposed to this digital alliance between US, Japan and Australia and secondly it is said that we want to have taxations for technical giants like Google and Facebook. What are your views on these two points, opposition to the digital alliance and taxation on tech giants?

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: If you see Society 5.0 which is a very important issue and it can cover many of the issues but specifically the G20 four sessions are the ones which will deal with that. Yes of course every country has a right to express their views but I don’t think any bilateral or plurilateral relationship that you mention will be figuring into discussion of this kind in the G20 Summit as such. We have of course many other forums in which we can react to them, we can take note of them, we can actually work with them but on this G20, per se, these are four major important sessions that will be focused.

Question: Teen points hain jis par aap kuch batana chaahein yadi to. Aapane baat kari hai climate proof quality infrastructure kii aur Eastern Coastal Industrial Corridor mein Japan ek badaa partner hai hamara, jaisa Nitin Gadkari Ji ne bataya thaa. To kya usko lekar is baare mein, jab G20 ke liye aap jaayenge to kya is par baat hogi. Doosara, Tidal energy ko lekar baat hui thii, isase pahle jo aapki Sarkar thi us samay, to kya use lekar baat hogi is yatra ke dauraan. Aur teesara hai, food security kii aapane baat kii, pichhali jab aapki Sarkar thi tab Japanese rice ko lekar baat huii thii kyonki uski per hectare yield bahut jyada hai to kaha thaa ki hum use yahan bhi karenge, aur uski koshish bhi huii thii, Haryana mein ek experiment basis par ye kaam bhi kiyaa gayaa thaa. To usko lekar aap kuch karengen kya? Ye teen points hain mere Eastern Coastal Corridor, Tidal Energy and Food Security using Japanese Rice.

(I would want your response to three points. You have talked about climate proof quality infrastructure and Japan is a big partner in the Eastern Coastal Industrial Corridor, as informed by Nitin Gadkari Ji. So will there be talks regarding this when you go to the G20. Second, there were discussions about Tidal Energy during your previous government, so will there be discussions during this visit? And third is the food security. During your last government there was discussion about Japanese rice as its per hectare yield is very high, so it was said that we will cultivate that rice here in India and there was an experimental attempt also in Haryana for the same, so would you do something about that in the G20 summit?)

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: Aapane jo baat poochhi wo sahi baat hai ki Japan aur India ka jo rishta hai wo bahut gaharaa hai. Japan ne bahut kam deshon ke saath strategic partnership kii hai, usmein hamare desh ke saath bhi unke bahut kareeb ke rishte bane hue hain. Khastaur par Pradhanmantri Modi aur Pradhanmantri Abe ke beech mein ek bahut gahra nijii rishta kaafi samay se barkaraar hai.

Main samajhata hoon ki ye jo hamari summit hai ismein G20 hone ke kaaran bilateral issues par ismein koi charchaa nahi kii jaayegi lekin aapki jaankaari ke liye main kahna chaahta hoon ki Japan overseas development assistance deta hai. Unke 0.06% of the GDP wo har saal overseas development assistance, ye commitment G7, OECD countries ne kii thii lekin Japan ne usko poora bhi kiya hai, sabse jyada oversease development assistance hamare desh ko mila hai aur isiliye aapne dekha hoga ki Delhi kii jo Metro bani hai usii ke kaaran bani hai, hamare Eastern Corridor ki jo baat chal rahi hai usmein bhi unka bahut rishta hai, food security ke baare mein bhi baatcheet chal rahi hai.

Jaise ke abhi hamare marine products hum yahan se kaafi badi maatra mei niryaat karte hain. Usmein bhi Japan ko niryaat karne kii bahut badii sambhavanaayein aaj bhi hain lekin is samay is par baatcheet nahi hogi. Waise to ye G20 Summit hai, iske liye multilateral body hai, 20 desh ismein sammilit rahengen lekin Japan ke saath, alag-alag tareeke se hamaari baatcheet hameshaa chalti hi rahti hai. Kuch samay pahle ek bahut bada Japanese delegation aaya tha, jab main commcerce ministry mein thaa, tab unse baatcheet bhi hui, To main ye manta hoon kii Japan ke saath hamaari kaafi baatcheet chalegi.

Aur aapki jaankaari ke liye, Japan ek aisa desh hai jab crude oil kii keemat kaafi badh gaii thii isliye hamare rupee-dollar mein thodi se jo kathinaai aaii thii, to Japan aisa desh thaa jinhone saamane aakar kahaa kii hum aapko line of credit dete hain, iske liye ek swap arrangement unhone banaaii thii. To Japan ek bahut hii alag tareeke se, not only strategic arrangement, not only swap arrangement, OD assistance and is so many areas we are working together.

(The thing that you said about Japan is true as India-Japan have very close ties. Japan has strategic partnership with very few countries and among them we still have very strong and close relationship. Especially a very close and private bonding is there between Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Abe.

I believe that G20 being a multilateral summit no discussion on bilateral issues will be there but for your information I would like to tell you that Japan provides overseas development assistance, they provide 0.06% of their GDP as overseas development assistance every year. This was a commitment made by the G7 and the OECD countries but Japan is a country which has fulfilled it every year. India has got the largest share of the overseas development assistance from Japan and you must have seen that Delhi Metro also received development assistance from Japan. The Eastern Coastal corridor also has a very big participation from Japan and we also have ongoing discussions about food security as well.

Just like we have our marine products which are exported in quite huge amount. There are huge possibilities of them being exported to Japan but this would not be discussed here in G20 as G20 is a multilateral body which has 20 countries. We have ongoing discussions with Japan on various issues. Sometime back a very big delegation from Japan visited India, when I was in the commerce ministry and we had discussions, so I believe that there will be ongoing discussions with Japan.

For your information only, I would like to share that when crude oil prices soared recently and there were issues because of Rupee-dollar exchange rates then Japan is one country which came to us and offered us a line of credit and they made a swap arrangement for the same. So with Japan we have a different relationship, it is not only strategic arrangement, not only swap arrangement or OD assistance, there are so many areas we are working together.)

Question: There seems to be a furious trade war on between the major economies and India has also imposed tariffs on US products, this kind of retaliation is going on and even the trade ties between China and US have also worsened. So this issue of protectionism which External Affairs Minister recently said in Bishkek that globalization is under strain. So can you tell us something about India’s concern about this issue of protectionism and how will it be discussed in the G20?

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: See, we are of a very informed and considered opinion that no barriers should be put on free flow of trade. For your information when the world, we call it ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires which took place in December 2017 which I led as India’s commerce minister, when it fell, I had announced there itself that we will organize the mini ministerial in New Delhi to take the WTO agenda forward.

We organized a meeting on 19-20 March, 2018 which was attended by 53 countries and in April 2019 we had called another mini ministerial of about 23 countries which was really mini ministerial because 53 countries was no mini, it was maximum ministerial as mini ministerial is normally of 15-20 countries. I am just giving this example that we strongly believe that multilateralism should prevail and there should not be any artificial out of WTO mandated sanctions should be put on any free flow of trade. That is our considered opinion and completely firm opinion.

Prime Minister when he went to Davos last year, he also talked about open economy, open border, removing all hurdles so we are completely committed to free flow of trade. India has already opened to a great deal the possibilities of trade with India. India is one of the most open economies of the world today. We get almost, without barriers, FDI into several sectors. So now India is right to demand that India should also get reciprocal treatment from other countries of the world.

So while we open the borders we are not fully benefitted from it and it is time when India’s economy which is now more than $2.8 trillion, it is poised to grow and we obviously need to work with others and India is not only speaking for own interest but we are also speaking for so many other countries. 54 countries in Africa, other countries in Latin America, smaller countries in Asia that open trade is the only way they can benefit. There are some countries in Africa, they export only one product and just imagine there is some artificial sanction which is put on that product then obviously their trade is finished because they export only one product.

So how can you not therefore open trade for all countries of the world in an open manner. That is our considered opinion. So we are fully against putting artificial border, we believe in WTO, we feel that WTO is the only forum through which we should work but that doesn’t mean we are dogmatic of saying that WTO should remain what WTO has always been. There is a possibility of reform of WTO that is why we organized these mini ministerial to decide about the agenda for reform but this should be happening.

As far the trade wars are concerned we are watching. I will tell you very interestingly, India had a trade deficit of $63 billion with China and the trade deficit was constantly increasing year after year for the last few decades. First time in 2018-19 our trade deficit with China went down by $10 billion. This is absolutely unprecedented that from $63 billion in one year we could reduce it by $10 billion and bring it to $53 billion and now we have prepared a strategy how to balance trade with China. It is no longer about reducing trade deficit anymore, how to balance trade with China. So this is all possible.

So when we talk about some trade wars, I really do not believe in war because I am a man of peace so I don’t know what war is, but I am saying whatever may be the relationship between other countries but we want to work with all the countries of the world including our neighbor China or our big trading partner US. So you want to work with both the US as well as China, we want to work with all countries of the world to have trade with them and we feel that trade is the best form and particularly for developing countries. India is of course now in a much better shape economically but what about smaller developing countries. We say that, No aid but trade and if you take the trade away and aid is already gone, how those small countries will survive. So therefore we feel that open trade is the only way which can happen.

Question: The fact that there will be bilaterals planned in Osaka in all likelihood there will be a big bilateral between India and US. Given the kind of blow hot blow cold signals we are getting on H1B visa or many other issues regarding trade, what is the strategy going to be in the eventuality of the big Indo-US bilateral happening in Osaka?

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: See, United States is India’s one of the largest trading partner and amongst many trading partners US is probably only one where we have the largest trade deficit. India’s relationship with US, which is very comprehensive, so it is not goods trade that we just talk about, merchandise trade we have surplus, we have a huge services trade with United States. We have a huge relationship with US on defence related matters. We are large number of Indians, more than 3.2 million people who are naturalizes in US but there are far more who are actually working with US offering services in United States. United States is also beneficiary of this relationship. Large number of Indians have created quite a few hundred thousand jobs in United States, we have evidence of that.

So there are people who are working in United States have added value to US economy because when President Clinton was the President, he had said once that US economy is growing thanks to productivity gains, some of the productivity gains came from technology and some contribution for that technology infusion into the US technology also has come from the Indians who work in United States. So I think United States is a large trading partner for India, one of the country where we have trade surplus but the country in which not only they are benefitted but they are also benefitting and we are also benefitting.

I will give an example we talk about trade deficit which when recently Secretary Wilbur Ross was here, I was telling him, India, according to Boeing, only according to Boeing, it is not my estimation, needs to buy 2300 aircrafts in the next few years to support the growing aviation sector. Now some of these aircrafts can be bought from United States and if you buy it from United States, today’s trade deficit will completely change the pattern.

Incidentally the exports from United States to India in the last few years have grown substantially because we imported oil & gas from United States. So I think it is a changing relationship, very important relationship, we value this relationship and we strongly feel that relationship should constantly grow for mutual benefit and therefore we look forward to very active participation, quite strong engagement and always we have seen, that any trade can result into a dispute, all trades and therefore, in fact I keep saying and some of the my friends, like Rajiv Deshpande from Times of India would know it better why the ‘trade-off’ word must have emerged.

The trade-off word must have emerged because of trade because there cannot be a trade-off without trade, so therefore trade disputes are inevitable. We are not worried about trade dispute, what is important is how do you resolve the dispute and the underlying strong sentiments, such a strong relationship gives us a reason that we will be able to resolve any dispute including trade dispute.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Please restrict your questions to G20. Not every question can be related to G 20.

Question: How serious is the concern that the ecommerce issue that the developed countries will push it through the G20 and what is India’s stand going to be on multilateral negotiation proposals on ecommerce?

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: I just told that there are very specific sessions and therefore I cannot understand as a journalist you want to know about ecommerce so that you get instant information. We will make sure that such right of a journalist to receive instantaneous information from any part of the world will not be impacted adversely by any discussion, any decision anywhere in the world.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Let us not get into speculative questions you know. What will be discussed at a particular meeting, after the meeting is over we will brief you.

Question: War like situation is emerging in Persian Gulf area and this will have a serious impact on India’s economy and also the world economy. Don’t you think this merits serious attention of the G20 Summit?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Ranjeet Ji, let us restrict ourselves to G20.

The agenda has already been spelt out by the Sherpa and at this point of time to kind of speculate what exactly will be the topics that will be discussed as part of the agenda will be very difficult to guess. So I think I request for your understanding.

Question: Sir, you have talked about free trade but we also have data localization from the Indian point of view. So how do you reconcile this difference between free trade that you are going to argue for and data localization from India? And secondly Japan is looking for, there is a text in the G20 that will be coming up.

G20 Sherpa, Shri Suresh Prabhu: See, I will tell you as my colleague already explained to you this is not a G20 issue but I will just tell you very broadly on this. See we have certain views on some subjects related to ecommerce, related to data localization. Those issues are being debated, discussed in various forums within the country. As far as the G20 is concerned, we will ensure that G20 is a forum in which many issues can be discussed as the countries want, as the Presidency decides but we will put forward our views as they are emanating from a very informed discussion within our country.

Jt. Secretary (MER), Shri Suresh Reddy: I just wanted to add one thing, in addition to the G20 Summit there would also be the traditional informal meeting of BRICS leaders, that is also scheduled to take place on 28th in the morning.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Since I don’t see any other hand, this concludes the special briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Osaka for G20 Summit. Thank you all for joining. Thank you very much.


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