13th November 2014 Brasilia, Brazil

Fighting corruption in Brisbane

G20 Brisbaine Logo
G20 – Brisbaine

This weekend, on 15-16 November, heads of government from 19 countries and the EU will meet in Brisbane, Australia for the G20 Leaders’ Summit. This gathering of the ‘Group of 20’, the world’s major developed and emerging economies, took on force after the Global Financial Crisis and is now arguably the most important global forum to tackle the world’s greatest economic and financial challenges. The decisions made in Brisbane carry weight – collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85% of the gross world product, 80% of world trade, and two-thirds of the world population.

These are impressive facts, but not ones that get us any closer to what the G20 actually does. This is the first time I’ve worked on international economic cooperation or G20 (in previous jobs I’ve covered security and human rights). In practice this entails keeping my colleagues in London up to date with Brazil’s G20 priorities in addition to following a broader portfolio of economic, tax and trade issues. This means, of course, that I must be up to speed on our own approach to the G20.

When I first started, I have to admit, I found it a difficult agenda to get my head around. Phrases like ‘beneficial ownership’ and ‘automatic tax information exchange’ left me cold. It seemed so far removed from the foreign policy I was used to dealing with and it’s fair to say they don’t grab the headlines like other big issues! But, as I got to grips with them, I realised how these topics are at the heart of what the UK aims to achieve on international growth and development.

In Brisbane, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron will renew his call for the G20 to tackle what he describes as the ‘cancer’ of corruption and drive global growth through the 3Ts – tax, transparency and trade. As he said in his recent article for the Wall Street Journal “corruption is the archenemy of democracy and development. It stifles growth and corrodes the contract between state and citizen”. To make progress, he is looking for both political commitments and legal reforms from the other leaders.

Even apparently dry, technical changes in legislation can have hugely important implications for preventing serious problems such as tax evasion. Implementing ‘beneficial ownership’ principles, a transparency measure, means that the authorities, as well as companies themselves, will know who really owns and controls them in order to prevent money being held under false identities and used for nefarious purposes; ‘automatic tax information exchange’ will help officials in different countries ensure that people and companies pay their fair share of tax rather than artificially shifting their profits to places they will pay little or no tax. The final ‘T’ for trade is about reducing the bureaucracy and barriers that hinder free trade and, therefore, global growth.

Making progress in this area requires the G20 to be bold and work together towards ambitious goals – common rules that bind us all. We have strong cooperation with Brazil in many areas, including the open government partnership which aims to make government more accountable to its citizens. But this is a global fight against corruption that requires courage, not just from governments, but from companies and citizens as well. The first step is for us to understand the decisions our leaders make in Brisbane. Start by reading the Prime Minister’s Wall Street Journal Article  and keep up to date with what’s happening at the G20 on Twitter – the Prime Minister will be tweeting from @no10gov.

About Primrose Lovett

Primrose Lovett joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a diplomat in 2011. Brasilia is her first overseas posting. Before moving to Brazil she worked in London on the Iran…

Primrose Lovett joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a diplomat in 2011. Brasilia is her first overseas posting. Before moving to Brazil she worked in London on the Iran nuclear issue and in the Private Office of the Senior Minister of State for Afghanistan and Pakistan. She graduated in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge, completed a Masters in International Human Rights Law at the University of York and in her spare time is now studying for a diploma in Economic Policy from the University of London.

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