By Ayako Hirayama / Japan News Staff Writer OSAKA — Japan has served as the chair of the Group of 20 summit at a critical time, when trade and geopolitical tensions are rising. To steer possibly volatile discussions among G20 leaders, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe relied on a “Japanese approach”: Averting confrontation and finding things in common among them.
During the summit in Osaka, which ended Saturday, Abe appeared to take advantage of Japan’s friendly relationships with some key countries by creating an atmosphere that could lead the way for engagement, rather than confrontation. Abe repeatedly used words such as “unity” and “shared views” throughout the two-day summit, which was chaired by Japan for the first time.
“I took a ‘typical Japanese approach’ of trying to find common ground instead of highlighting differences,” Abe said at a press conference to wrap up the summit. “That can become a major step toward concrete actions.”
Unlike the Group of Seven industrialized countries, G20 members have different views and positions, making it difficult to reach a consensus.
Abe said he “tenaciously” made efforts to produce results at the Osaka summit. Among the results he mentioned are the launch of the “Osaka Track,” a framework to promote international governance of the cross-border flow of data. Whether the framework proves workable remains to be seen, but Abe hailed the move to kick-start work on creating rules with the aim to produce substantial results next year.
An agreement was also reached at the G20 summit on an international framework to reduce marine plastic waste, called “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision.” Environmental issues tend to divide rich and poor countries, but Japan tried to focus discussions on building consensus over a goal of fighting marine pollution, rather than discussing specific approaches such as regulations, according to the Japanese government.
Meanwhile, it was feared that trade friction between the United States and China would overshadow the summit. However, Abe projected an image of being someone who defuses tension, saying the G20 leaders recognized downside risks to the global economy.
Despite being aware of such risks, the G20 leaders stopped short of criticizing protectionism in the declaration. Although marine pollution was a major agenda item, Japan has been criticized for its slow action to reduce plastic consumption. It remains unclear whether Japan can take the lead to bring about substantial results.