G20 sets economic tone, with Ebola, structural reform also on agenda
BRISBANE, Australia - Economic growth, infrastructure investment and stopping tax avoidance by multinationals were the main themes on the first day of the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane on Saturday.
In the opening remarks for the first Plenary Session of the G20 Summit, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged to achieve the goal to boost world growth by more than an additional 2 percent by 2018 and create more jobs.
He also emphasized on free trade, more infrastructure, structural reforms and fiscal consolidation to follow through on the G20 commitment.
"We believe that as a result of the work that we will do, the world can grow by more than 2 percent more over the next five years than would otherwise be the case and that is millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in extra production and it's because of the work that we are doing and we are agreeing on in these few days," he said.
Apart from economic issues, the leaders also talked about the fight against Ebola and agreed to address the terrible human and economic impact of its outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
In a statement on Ebola, the leaders said G20 members were committed to "do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak and address its medium-term economic and humanitarian costs."
Earlier, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey set the tone for the day with two press conferences, in which he said the main focus of the G20 was on boosting global economic growth.
Hockey said it was at the G20 finance ministers meeting that member states decided to fund the massive infrastructure need around the world over the next few decades through a better partnership with the private sector.
He said the final issue on the agenda was stopping large multinational companies from avoiding paying tax through base erosion and profit shifting.
After the meeting, Zhu Guangyao, Chinese vice minister of finance, spoke to reporters about China's economy and its relation with the world economy.
Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis was also a hot topic.
At the Brisbane Convention Center, the venue for the summit, thousands of media from all over the world arrived and Saturday's first news conference was a media briefing featuring European Council (EC) President Herman Van Rompuy.
Van Rompuy said European Union (EU) leaders will meet Obama during the weekend to discuss the Ukraine situation.
"But I want to restate that the European Union continues to believe that it can only be a political solution to the crisis," said Van Rompuy.
On the sidelines of the summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon told reporters that G20 leaders needed to focus on youth unemployment, climate change, and sustainable development.
The leaders'summit officially began Saturday afternoon with Abbott welcoming each leader on stage with a warm handshake. As part of the welcoming ceremony, aboriginal dancers entertained the distinguished guests.
After the closed session, leaders gathered for a family photo and later joined a reception at Brisbane's gallery of modern art.
The day ended with G20 members enjoying a working dinner.