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Speech by Dr. Wolf­gang Schäu­b­le, Ger­man Fe­deral Mi­nis­ter of Fi­nance, at the ope­ning of the G20 De­pu­ties’ Mee­ting on 1 De­cem­ber 2016 in Ber­lin

  • Datum 01.12.2016
  • Ort Berlin

I would like to welcome you all warmly to the Ministry of Finance for the first official meeting of the German G20 Presidency. Before we begin, I would also like to thank China for all its efforts in the previous presidency. We are well prepared for the tasks ahead, but the excellent work carried out by the Chinese Presidency means that we are starting out from a very good base. So, thank you very much.

I believe that some of you may have been here before. This building, indeed this room, plays a special role in the history of the G20. The first ever G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors took place in this very room back in 1999. Almost ten years later, G20 Deputies met once again in this room, in May 2010, under the Korean presidency. The building itself is also steeped in history. It reflects the stages of Germany’s turbulent history of the last eighty years more clearly than almost any other building in the capital. It was built between 1935 and 1936, during the terrible Nazi period, and served as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe under Hermann Göring. It was in this room very, shortly after the murderous Kristallnacht of 9 November 1938, that Göring, together with other top officials of the Nazi regime, set out plans for the systematic persecution and elimination of Jews from German society.

Following Germany’s defeat in the Second World War, it became first the headquarters of the Soviet military administration, and later House of Ministries in the former East Germany. And the room where today your members of staff are watching these proceedings is where Walter Ulbricht, the then Head of State of the GDR, declared that “nobody has any intention to build a wall”. We know how that turned out, unfortunately. Thankfully, the wall is no longer with us, but the building remains. 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ministry of Finance made the building its permanent headquarters – in 1999, the same year as the G20 was set up.

The world has not become any less complex since we first set up the G20 in response to the Asian crisis. If anything, it has become far more complex. We are witnessing change at a speed that we would not have thought possible. Globalization and digitalization mean greater opportunities and potential for growth. Hundreds of millions around the world have been lifted out of poverty. But this does not apply to everyone. Instead of seeing the opportunities offered, many instead feel threatened by globalization. This has led to a growing level of distrust in politicians, business leaders, media, and even some parts of the world becoming less stable.

We cannot afford to ignore these changes. We must make globalization work and shape it to improve sustainable growth and more prosperity. The best place to do this, to set the framework to capture the broadest benefits of globalization and digitalization, is within the G20.

But the issues are complex, and require a high degree of coordination. That is why we are honoured to take over the G20 presidency and it underlines the importance of you all being here today, not only to talk about international cooperation, but to actually practise it. To me, the G20 represents the most important and effective instrument of global governance for both macroeconomic and structural policymaking and coordinating questions relating to regulation.

Thanks to previous presidencies and all members around this table, the G20 Finance Track has achieved much progress over the last years in many areas. Many of you were at the kick-off meeting yesterday, where I outlined some of our achievements. There is no need to repeat them here. But I would like to emphasise one area of achievements, namely in international tax policy. I believe that this is a real success story of the G20. Since we started our tax agenda, four years ago in Mexico City, we have established an almost global standard for the automatic exchange of tax information, we have agreed on the BEPS action points, and we have started to improve transparency of beneficial ownership information. These are very important milestones. I fully support our G20 tax agenda because I think it shows all the dimensions of what the G20 is capable of. We have shown how to enhance international cooperation among G20 members and beyond, namely with developing countries. We have improved the fairness of taxation on the national and international level. And, by doing so, we have strengthened the foundations of sustainable growth of our economies. This is something that we can be proud of.

Tax policy is just one example of many G20 achievements. The German Presidency will now look to build on these achievements. We will ensure continuity for a large number of issues that have been on the G20 agenda before. In this, we will build upon the work of the Chinese Presidency. Of course, we also have our own, specific priorities for our presidency. I will not go into detail on these now. But Claudia Buch and Ludger Schuknecht are here and will outline both the priorities and the work programme for 2017 in the first working session. But let me stress: If we are to achieve tangible results, all of us have to be willing to compromise. This is the best way to increase global growth and stability – and to prove the merits of international cooperation in these turbulent times.

I wish you constructive discussions in the coming days. There is much work ahead, particularly to prepare the discussion and the decision-making for the Meeting of Ministers and Governors on the 17th and 18th of March in Baden-Baden. I am looking forward to welcoming you there with your respective Minister and Governor. Together we can contribute to a successful summit meeting then in Hamburg in July.

In the meantime, I wish you all a pleasant and productive stay in Berlin. And with that, I will hand over to Claudia Buch and Ludger Schuknecht.

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