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Aid & development links: new C'wealth chief, metadata census, fundraising costs and more

  • The Commonwealth has announced its first female secretary-general, Baroness Patricia Scotland. The Baroness’ first task should be to beef up the effectiveness of their aid work as The Commonwealth has routinely ranked as one of the worst performing multilateral donors.
  • In the first of a two part series that I have co-authored over at Devpolicy we look at trends in Australian development NGO spending since 2000, and in particular how fundraising costs have changed over time (hint: they’ve gone up).
  • Terence Wood continues his analysis of new Australian polling data on foreign aid, this time looking at who specifically opposed Australia’s aid cuts. 
  • Census’ and household surveys in developing countries are rare, unreliable and notoriously expensive. New research shows how many aspects may be recreated at a fraction of the cost by using mobile phone metadata.
  • Michael Clemens debunks some of the biggest fears about refugees and their supposed links to violence, terrorism and costing the economy. 
  • There’s only two weeks left to apply for the 2016 ODI Fellowship Scheme, perhaps the best entry pathway for young economists to work in developing countries.
  • In a new podcast Adam Davidson takes a look at all things concrete, with particular reference to the industries overwhelming influence in developing countries and how shoddy concrete is to blame for many deaths when disaster strikes.

  • Finally, as we enter the festive season, Tiny Spark has launched a three part ‘guide to good [charitable] giving’ podcast series.


Turkey has got Syria wrong — again

The shooting down of the Russian aircraft by the Turks and the subsequent death of two Russian servicemen briefly got the tabloids talking about World War III but in reality this was never going to blow up into a direct military confrontation between Moscow and Ankara. What it did demonstrate, once again, is how focused on the short-term Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in his Syria policy.

No one will know who gave the order to shoot down the Russian aircraft, but it nearly certainly wasn't the Turkish pilot. Russia has been provocative with its airspace violations, but there is always a graduated response to these types of incidents; from verbal warnings, to visual warnings, to escorts out of the area, to shooting down. Ankara appears to have jumped from the least aggressive to the most aggressive option at lightning speed.

And now Turkey is paying for it. When taking on an adversary there are two golden rules: first, make sure you can hurt them more than they can hurt you; and second, make sure you have friends who have got your back. On the second of these points, to describe Erdogan's relationship with his NATO allies as 'good' would be overstating the case. Of course after the plane went down NATO constituted its crisis mechanisms and issued a statement publicly supportive of Turkey. But when NATO condemned airspace violations by Russia a month earlier, it noted Turkish aircraft had 'in accordance with NATO practice…closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace.' The apparent failure to follow these procedures in the latest incident is likely to be exercising the minds of some of Ankara's NATO allies.

There's not much more that NATO can do to help Turkey, or that it would really want to do. There is a widely held belief that Erdogan was complicit by commission or omission in the rise of ISIS and other violent jihadi groups by allowing the free flow of fighters and weapons across Turkey's borders in the belief that Assad could be defeated militarily and Turkey could control the rise of any Islamist groups. Turkey was also quite restrictive in how it allowed the US to use its Incirlik airbase to launch attacks against ISIS in Syria; hardly the actions of a committed NATO ally.

Russia has already demonstrated its intent to retaliate against Turkey and Turkish interests. Moscow appears to have shifted some of the weight of its air campaign to attack towns and border crossings abutting the Turkish border, as well as Turkish-backed rebel groups in Syria, a group that had already come under Russian attack prior to the shooting down. Moscow has also adopted a raft of economic sanctions against Turkey and, given Russia is Turkey's second-largest trading partner, there is plenty of scope for additional pain to be inflicted.

Erdogan has tried to contact Putin personally but has been rebuffed to date, while Russia has demanded an apology from Turkey, which is unlikely to eventuate. Erdogan has gone so far as to say he was 'saddened' by the loss of the aircraft, but that is likely to be as far as he will go. The return of the deceased pilot's body could provide a circuit breaker, and there is little doubt back door discussions are underway to achieve this

Erdogan has proven himself to be an adept domestic politician, but on the international stage his Islamo-nationalist outlook and short-termism has resulted in Ankara becoming increasingly isolated from states that had been its close partners. The West believes it to be duplicitous when it comes to Syrian Islamists, the Arab regimes (with the exception of Qatar) believe it to be in bed with their natural enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood, and it has now picked a fight with its second-largest trading partner in Russia. None of this augurs well for the future.

Photo: Mehmet Ali Ozcan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Decoding China's GOOD approach to the G20

With this year's summit season coming to an end, Turkey will officially hand over the G20 hosting baton to China on 1 December 2015. The Hangzhou Leaders' Summit has already been announced for 4 and 5 September 2016, slightly earlier than previous years to avoid clashing with the US presidential election in November.

Although we are still waiting for China to release the official priorities document that will set out its goals in detail, President Xi Jinping did take the opportunity at the Antalya Summit to sketch an outline of what China's G20 year will look like.

G20 host countries have a habit of reconfiguring the same fundamental issues to suit their narrative. As the 2015 host, Turkey focused the G20 agenda around three 'i's: inclusiveness, investment, and implementation.

China, not to be outdone, has linked its presidency with four 'i's. Xi stated in Antalya that China wants to see a global economy that is 'innovative, invigorated, inter-connected and inclusive'. The sequence is important, as innovation is a new focus for both China and the G20.

Each of these 'i's can be linked to the acronym of GOOD that has been unofficially associated with China's G20 presidency; innovative Growth, Organizational reform, Open trade and investment, and sustainable Development. Chinese officials have used the GOOD acronym in meetings and, even though it's not to be found in official communications, it remains a useful guide to the priorities framing China's thinking.

China believes there is too much emphasis on weak demand as the cause of sluggish growth. Therefore, it wants to use its G20 host year to focus on the supply side, concentratating on innovation and technology as a means of creating growth. This also fits with China's domestic strategy of moving up the value chain and improving the quality of exports.

As for organisational reform or 'invigorating' governance, this reflects the preoccupation of China and other emerging economies with their exclusion from existing governance bodies. Long-stalled IMF reform is a particular sore point.

There is speculation the IMF is about to add the yuan to its basket of reserve currencies, but it will take more than such symbolic reform to satisfy China beyond the short term. Similarly, China remains disappointed with the World Bank shift in voting share in 2010. Despite some changes, the Bank still has a US-appointed president and emerging markets are underrepresented.

Wang Xiaolong, the newly appointed G20 special envoy from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasised that we need a more 'inter-connected' regime because the 'two engines' of the global economy, trade and investment, are not working as they should. It is well-known that world trade is slowing more than global GDP.

He confirmed that G20 trade ministers would meet in China next year (as they did in Turkey and Australia). However, if China wants to progress trade, it will need to convene a leader-level discussion on fixing the World Trade Organisation.

We might also assume China's G20 agenda will continue the focus on infrastructure investment, a feature of both the Australian and Turkish presidencies.

Turkey's inclusiveness priority did emphasise development, but China seems to be taking this further with sustainable development as a fourth priority. In the Chinese narrative, development is another key engine of growth, particularly 'shared development'. However, we do not know yet what this means for the G20 Development Working Group and whether development will become part of the core agenda.

Turkey struggled with its three 'i's and was unable to focus the agenda, eventually producing a disappointing communiqué.

China, with four 'i's and a 'GOOD', will have to be clearly communicate what it wants to achieve, and be careful its messages do not get lost in translation. We will have to wait to see if the priorities document contains yet another slogan or acronym.

It is unrealistic for any host to progress every item on the G20 agenda. Given the breadth of issues Turkey is bequeathing to China, the new G20 taskforce will have to be disciplined.

The best thing for the Australian G20 legacy would be if China revives a narrative on growth and runs a tight ship. Although Australia has departed the governing G20 troika, we should not go quietly back to the sidelines. We have a responsibility to encourage China to strengthen the forum and deliver real outcomes.

Photo: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Discuss: upsides not worth the downsides in FTAs

On Thursday, the Institute is hosting a panel on free trade agreements with me, Jessica Irvine from Fairfax and Luke Nottage, law professor from the University of Sydney. Steve Grenville, former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia will be chairing. There’s a divergence of views on the panel, so it should be a great event.

For those that can’t make it, I can at least easily summarise my views.

I’m very sceptical of the direction of Australian trade policy. As I have said before, I do not think the upsides are worth the potential downsides.

Let’s first cover the upsides. The upsides of the preferential approach we take are small. For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released modelling by the Centre for International Economics in June which showed that the marquee bilateral free trade agreements of the last couple of years (the agreements with Japan, Korea and China) would boost Australian GDP by 0.05% to 0.1%.

Modelling of the final text of the TPP has not been done, although modelling of what the agreement may look like was done by the Peterson Institute. Their first effort at modelling suggested an impact on Australia of 0.2% of GDP. With some changes to the model, this was later increased to 0.6% of GDP, which is chunkier, but let me go through the downsides of current policy and why there is a better path.

Let’s start with what really distresses me: intellectual property. As part of these trade agreements, we sign up to stringent intellectual property protections.

Why is this bad? Two reasons. One, Australia is an intellectual property importer. Any extensions to intellectual property protections result in larger payments overseas to those who own the intellectual property. But the second reason is the real kicker for me. I think a fair reading of the economic literature suggests that more intellectual property protection does not increase innovation, and in fact likely reduces it, as companies divert attention away from creation toward protecting entrenched monopoly privileges. A great summary of that literature can be found in a book by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, Against Intellectual Monopoly. Although, for a shorter synopsis, you might want to consider the articles The Economist ran in August

The only reason to have intellectual property protection is to encourage innovation. If it reduces innovation, then we should run from agreements that increase our obligations. Why? Well, innovation is the most important source of sustained growth in the economy. If increased intellectual protection reduces innovation and growth, it will likely overwhelm the one-shot bumps to GDP that the aforementioned modelling suggests is the upside.

The other part of free trade agreements that makes me uncomfortable is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures. Most of the agreements we have signed lately include provisions that allow foreign companies to take us to a tribunal if they feel aggrieved by government action. Giving rights to foreign companies that domestic ones do not have, the very opposite of levelling the playing field, gives most economists the heebie-jeebies.

However, perhaps these types of agreements can allow countries to attract more investment, and allow governments to commit to behaving themselves. My reading of the, admittedly imperfect, evidence is these provisions do not do that. Rather they can, and have, led to legitimate government decisions to be challenged, and led others to postpone reforms. Exhibit A here is cigarette packaging.

Luke Nottage, on the panel with me, is a supporter of ISDS, and has argued that reforms to the system can deal with these concerns. He is yet to convince me, but he has a terrific knowledge of the topic. The thing I just can’t shake is that these things do not seem to increase investment flows, their raison d'être. I’m sure this will be one of the things we discuss tomorrow.

But I promised a 'better path'. The better path is unilateral liberalisation. The Productivity Commission, in 2010, suggested unilateral tariff liberalisation would increase GDP by around 0.6%, around the same effect as the TPP according to the Peterson modelling. But the model used by the Productivity Commission was closer in spirit to the initial Peterson modelling, which suggested a 0.2% boost. So unilateral liberalisation seems to offer much larger benefits than the preferential approach we have taken, without the bad bits, especially the damaging intellectual property provisions.

Photo courtesy of

Pacific Island links: AFP in PNG, female MPs, Vanuatu election, remittances and more

  • A former AFP officer posted in PNG has made a number of allegations about the conduct of local police and the AFP presence in PNG, claiming the AFP's actions are constrained by the imperative to maintain the Manus Island Refugee Processing Centre. The AFP has responded to this report here.
  • Last week I linked to a story criticising an Australian-funded aid project in Vanuatu that has attracted a lot of attention on social media. Two senior ni-Vanuatu public servants, Mike Waiwai and Jeff Malmangrou, published a rebuttal of the arguments in that article in the Vanuatu Daily Post and expressed their support for the aid project in question.  
  • Vanuatu's President Baldwin Lonsdale has dissolved Parliament and called a snap election following the incarceration of 14 MPs on bribery charges.
  • The Pacific Regional Conference on Strengthening Women's Participation in Parliaments is wrapping up today in Port Moresby. The Pacific has the lowest rates of women's representation in parliament in the world. 
  • In this interview with Radio Australia's Pacific Beat, UNDP team leader and former Labour MP in New Zealand, Charles Chauvel, explains some of the new initiatives being explored to help increase women's political participation in the Pacific.
  • This new research from International IDEA looks at political instability in the Pacific and analyses attempts to address the issue through constitutional reform.  
  • Devpolicy's Stephen Howes and Ashlee Betteridge show the persistently high cost of remittances in the Pacific, with the Australia-PNG corridor proving to be one of the most expensive in the world.  
  • Today is White Ribbon Day and violence against women is a major problem in Australia and throughout the Pacific. This Human Rights Watch report delves into the issue of family violence in Papua New Guinea.
  • Papua New Guinean songwriter Oala Moi on the fight for copyright in his country. It has been over 12 years since PNG introduced a copyright law, but there is still no collective management system that would allow musicians to exercise those rights and receive proper payment when their work is used.
  • The Lowy Institute's 2015 GE Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue will be taking place in Sydney next week. Check out some of the other great work GE is doing in PNG with its portable ultrasound project:

Lowy Institute Poll: Most Australians would back tougher target to win agreement in Paris

As Paris prepares for the arrival of delegates from 196 countries who will take part in international climate negotiations next week, Lowy Institute Polling suggests the majority of adult Australians (62%) have given the Turnbull Government the green light to strengthen its commitment on emission reductions, if that's what it takes to reach a global agreement.

Only 36% of the 1002 people who took part in the latest Lowy Institute Poll were of the the view the government should 'stick to its target regardless of what other countries do'. The national telephone poll took place between 25 October and 4 November.

Lowy Institute Executive Director Dr Michael Fullilove said: 'It’s very clear that Australians want our government to contribute to a global agreement on climate change in Paris, if necessary by committing to stronger emissions reduction targets'.

The poll result comes after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a little noticed move on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit  that appeared to open up some ground between his government's stance on climate change negotiations, and that of his predecessor.

A joint statement issued by Turnbull with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, included a commitment to secure an agreement in Paris with a long-term goal. 

The Climate Institute's Erwin Jackson told the Fairfax Press this was the first time the Government has explicitly supported a long term carbonisation signal as a clear objective for Paris.                                           

As Jackson wrote in 'Paris Climate Talks: The World has changed since Copenhagen', the Paris negotiations seek to establish an agreement for a new common international framework that will drive domestic action.

However the Lowy Institute Poll suggested that while the majority of Australians are hoping for a decisive outcome from Paris, they are divided on the best policy solution at home.

When asked to choose between two alternatives, the current Direct Action scheme that pays business for emissions reductions projects, and the introduction of a price on carbon or an emissions trading scheme, 51%  of Australians favoured Direct Action while 43% opted for an ETS or price on carbon.

The Lowy Institute Poll also found concern about climate change continues to grow. Just over half of Australians (52%) indicated they believe global warming is a a 'serious and pressing problem' and we should take steps now, 'even if this involves a significant cost'.

The shift in opinion on climate change has been one of the most dramatic trends recorded over the course of the Lowy Institute Poll. It began asking Australians about climate change in 2006, asking survey participants to select the response which most closely mirrors their point of view: 

  • Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.
  • The problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost.
  • Until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs.

As demonstrated in the table below, concern about global warming was highest in 2006, a year of severe drought in Australia. Over the next few years, the sense of urgency abated but then opinion turned again. The Lowy Institute has recorded an upward trend in successive polls since 2012.

Aid & development links: David Cameron shifts, world toilet day, best aid videos and more

  • Terence Wood analyses new polling data to get to the bottom of who actually supports Australian aid. (Hint: it helps to be young, educated, female and from the left end of the political spectrum).
  • David Cameron has announced that at least half of the UK's £9 billion aid program will be directed towards fragile states, up from 43% today.
  • Adam Davidson, founder of one of my favourite podcasts, takes to The New York Times to argue that the venture-capital philosophy of investing (basically, investing small amounts in many projects/ideas and then scaling up what works) can be a useful model for foreign aid.
  • Speaking of podcasts, the Innovations for Poverty Action team have released their development podcast playlist for the summer.
  • To mark World Toilet Day last week, WaterAid released a report ranking countries with the worst access to toilets in 2015:

  • David McKenzie and Anna Luisa Paffhausen from the World Bank take a look at what is being taught in more than 200 development economics courses from 54 developing countries. 
  • The Centre for Global Development's founding President, Nancy Birdsall, is stepping down after a stellar 15 year run. She will stay on until a successor is in place.
  • The Guardian takes a look at the best and worst aid videos of 2015. Here's the best: 

Syria: The ugly truth behind those calls for 'pragmatism'

In Manila this week Prime Minister Turnbull, echoing the language of other Western leaders of late, spoke of the need for pragmatism when it comes to Syria:

...what we need there is a political settlement. And it is clear that the principal determinants of, the people that will decide who can be in or out are going to be the people in Syria. You know that dictating terms from foreign capitals is unlikely to be successful. So, clearly the, as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, said in Turkey, and I endorse what he said, the approach of all the parties to a resolution in Syria has to be one undertaken in the spirit of compromise, and in a spirit of pragmatism.

It all sounds reasonable and sensible and in many respects it is. But the subtext of this pragmatism is a willingness to compromise with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the interest of destroying ISIS. The idea that we should settle with Assad because ISIS is worse was given more clear-throated ventilation by former Prime Minister Howard this week. 

There is no question that the priority today must be to end the conflict in Syria above all else. The scale of the catastrophe in Syria means that all options need to be considered, even unpalatable ones. Indeed, this has been obvious for a number of years. In September 2013, Rodger Shanahan and I wrote:

Syrian policy needs to operate within the realm of the possible, rather than the preferable. Having signaled that it is not willing to mount a major military intervention, the West needs to focus its efforts on diplomacy. This will not be easy. The West will need to find diplomatic solutions to the conflict and its consequences without, as far as is possible, rewarding the Syrian leadership for its brutal behaviour and for the responsibility it holds for the death and suffering of millions of Syrians.

But in considering unpalatable options, it is also vital that we be clear-sighted about them.

The current formulation being used by Western leaders to climb down from the 'Assad-must-go' tree is a willingness to contemplate Assad remaining in power for a transitional period. It is upon this slender branch that a bridge was purportedly built between the US and its allies and Assad's international patrons, Iran and Russia, at the Vienna talks.

Significantly, that bridge does not yet extend to the Syrian opposition, who were not invited to Vienna, notwithstanding Turnbull's comment above that 'dictating terms from foreign capitals is unlikely to be successful.'

In any event, this does not really matter because I don't believe Assad or his international backers would stick to such a deal, even if they were prepared to agree to it. Over the last four years Assad has shown that he is prepared to sacrifice every last Syrian to remain in power. So far he has sacrificed a quarter of a million of them. Why would he budge now when his military position has been strengthened by Russian and Iranian intervention and when he thinks that the West fears ISIS more than it fears him remaining in power?

Nor do I think Russia or Iran will abandon Assad easily. Every so often they float the idea that they are not wedded to Assad personally remaining in power, and to some extent this is true. Were they, for example, to be forced to choose between protecting their interests in Syria and protecting Assad, they probably would give him up. But they have never been placed in that position. Instead they suggest they might give up Assad in the hope of dragging the West closer to their position, gradually eroding Western opposition to Assad remaining in power permanently. 

It is not ordained that the US and allies such as Australia should have to be Russian or Iranian patsies. To get to closer to a political settlement, the West will have to concede some transitional role to Assad. This is the right kind of pragmatism. But it has to be accompanied by a determination to ensure that Assad's rule really is transitional.

I fear, however, that this kind of pragmatism will be accompanied by the wrong kind; the kind that has seen Western countries tolerate and even embrace myriad Middle Eastern dictators at great cost to both the people of the Middle East and to Western interests and security. These repressive, dictatorial systems have incubated radicalism and terrorism, and even at times promoted it. Repression does not create jihadism and extremism, but it creates the conditions for it to thrive, helping it to gain supporters and foot soldiers. 

It was, for example, the repressive policies of the Maliki Government in Iraq that drove Sunnis in that country into the arms of ISIS. And it was Assad's brutal response to the originally peaceful protests of the Arab uprising in Syria that transformed it into a violent civil war and a magnet for jihadists.

Yet we still turn a blind eye to this connection between dictatorship and extremism. In Egypt, for example, Western pragmatism is gradually winding down pressure on the increasingly repressive regime of President Sisi. Yet under his rule terrorism in Egypt has grown rather than diminished, as the recent bombing of the Metrojet airliner in Sinai underlined.

In the case of Syria, this wrong kind of pragmatism will mean, I fear, that after Western leaders concede to Assad a transitional role in running his country they won't have the determination, persistence or patience to stop his rule becoming permanent. In fact, I suspect some Western policymakers privately know this already; some might even favour it. They may be thinking that even if we cannot dislodge Assad after this 'transitional period', a permanent Assad is still better than the alternative. 

But they are wrong. 

Assad is no more capable of returning stability to Syria with Western backing than he is without it. Any political process built upon Assad playing a transitional role in his country will soon collapse once it becomes clear that his role is becoming permanent. Any deal that unintentionally or otherwise helped Assad survive will also entrench Russian and Iranian strategic gains in Syria. No one in Syria owes more to the Russians and Iranians than he does. In fact, the West would be complicit in increasing the security threat that Iran and Hizballah pose to Israel as they expand their presence in Syria. 

But most damaging of all, such a deal would reinforce the view in the Arab world that, when faced with a choice, the West will always side with repressive dictators over their citizens. And we will probably still wonder why they hate us.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user US Department of State.

APEC attendees take note: Services are nice but most trade action still in goods

Attendees at the APEC summit this week may be walking around with a new spring in their step. Some observers have suggested the successful conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership could be a stepping stone to 'an even bigger Asian Pacific trade agreement among all 21 members of APEC'.

What will the summit focus on? APEC’s executive director, Alan Bollard, has declared this is the 'year of services'. This complements the hype surrounding the TPP and services. For example, Alan Oxley, a former Australian trade negotiator said:

Increasing foreign investment and access to services markets, key features of the TPP Agreement, are the new drivers of global growth. Restrictions on both are high in the Asian Pacific economies. This is why Korea, Japan and China have started to open these markets in bilateral FTAs, most latterly with Australia.

Let’s look at those three free trade agreements for a moment. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released modelling by the Centre for International Economics in June which showed these agreements would boost Australian GDP by only 0.05 to 0.1 per cent. In this modelling, goods liberalisation was estimated to provide a five times bigger boost to GDP than services liberalisation. There may be a number of reasons for this. One could be that Australia’s services trade is still relatively small compared to goods trade. See the graph below.

In 2013 services made up about 17% of exports and 20% of imports. And the trend has been down. The fall in the relative importance of services exports is a commodity story: iron ore and other commodities are a larger part of our export bundle now. The share of services did increase through the 1980s, but that increase had stopped by the early-to-mid 1990s. Perhaps more surprising is the fall in the share of imports.

Just in case Australia is a bit special, let’s look at what has happened in worldwide trade.

Here, 'exports' represents a line calculated from summing up the exports of all countries, and similarly for 'imports'. In theory, the two lines should be identical, but because of measurement problems they aren’t. Awkward! In any case, both lines speak with the same voice. There has been no trend in the relative importance of services trade for at least 20 years (the spike in 2009 is GFC related and not indicative of any sort of trend).

A number of points can be made in response to these graphs. I’d lose your attention if I went through the full laundry list so I'll focus on just one.

Goods trade 'embodies' some services. If we export cheese, the export is counted as a good, but there were some services used to produce that cheese. For example, the dairy farmer may have employed an accountant to do his books, so the cheese 'embodies' some accountancy services. Therefore, the importance of services, in these graphs, is understated.

OK. Point taken. But when we are talking about dismantling barriers to trade, it is what crosses the border that counts. You can make all the changes to accountancy regulations you want, but if the cheese can’t get across the border, it doesn’t matter.

Moreover, I think the interesting point is about trends. If you listen to some of the rhetoric, 21st century trade is increasingly about services. But these graphs indicate that, worldwide, 21st trade looks similar to the trade that occurred when the Berlin Wall fell and Mark Zuckberg was starting primary school.

Paris attacks cast a shadow over 2015 G20 Summit

By the Lowy Institute's G20 Fellow Tristram Sainsbury and Research Associate Hannah Wurf

The 2015 G20 Leaders' Summit will be remembered for taking place in the aftermath of the brutal attacks in Paris, as leaders scrabbled to show unity and collective action.

In coverage of the summit, every article, tweet, and interview makes some mention of terrorism. All the briefings about leaders' bilateral meetings refer to the security issues discussed. This is a strange situation for what is known as the world's 'premier forum for international economic cooperation'.

Of course it is understandable that leaders wanted to show decisive action after the attacks. President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin met on the side to discuss Syria within hours of arriving. Even China has come out strongly to condemn the attacks.

The G20 statement on terrorism reaffirming that it 'cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation, or ethnic group' is a powerful message. It's a demonstration of the cooperation that underscores both why G20 leaders should continue to meet and the importance of their dialogue.

However, to no one's surprise, the 2015 communique contains no ambitious economic policy. The G20's feeble repetition of its commitment to 'strong, sustainable, and balanced growth' is at odds with economic reality where global growth has slowed to 3.1 per cent.

Before the summit, three issues were expected to dominate: the refugee crisis, growth, and climate change. Much of the attention on the refugee crisis has been redirected to the conflict in Syria and tackling terrorist financing, as well as supporting countries that are hosting large numbers of refugees (including Turkey). Some of the actions decided could be more concrete, and detail still needs to be fleshed out, but it's a start.

Efforts on growth, however, continue to disappoint.

Supposedly, the G20 has implemented half of the1000 plus commitments in the Brisbane Action Plan from 2014, and this has contributed a third to growth ambitions. Remember that these commitments were supposed to be adding a 2% increase to GDP across the G20. Although some 500 measures have been undertaken, the IMF World Economic Outlook has yet to recognise any effect from these measures.

As it stands, the IMF predictions are uncomfortably close to a global recession. If the G20 was genuinely contributing 0.7 per cent to growth by 2018 then the story would be how the G20 has helped avert a recession. This is not the case. Instead, the target looks superficial and shows the G20 to be misguided in thinking it could easily shift the dial on growth. Country actions on trade, competition, labour markets, and investment remain important, but we cannot know with precision how this will translate into growth numbers.

The negotiations on the paragraph on climate change, like last year, extended into the final day of the summit. The end result was mixed. It was always a given that the G20 would support the COP21 meetings, and the text encouraging G20 negotiators to 'engage constructively and flexibly' to limit warming to the agreed 2°C should add some momentum to Paris. The firm language is a welcome relief for those who saw earlier drafts with a much shorter and watered down version of this paragraph.

However, climate action advocates have reason to be disappointed with the conspicuous absence of reference to climate financing, and no mention of additional efforts above the already submitted Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDCs). The world is not pledging enough and G20 countries have once again not acknowledged that they are a key part of the problem. This does not bode well for Paris.

This G20 communique is long and dense, so no lesson has been learnt from Australia's tight drafting last year. There are acknowledgements of ongoing work on tax cooperation and banking regulation. The reference to the 'internet economy' seems an add-on that lacks substance, and the reference to the Milano Expo should not have made it to the final draft.

The Antalya Summit will be remembered for the advances on security cooperation and the one page statement on the fight against terrorism. President Obama ended the summit with a strong speech defending US strategy against terrorism after a single, brief mention of the economy.

As an aside, the Australian influence at this summit seemed muted. The Prime Minister left before the final communique was released, and took most of the Australian media with him. This seems an inglorious end to our role in the G20 hosting 'troika'. At least there was positive reference in the communique to the Global Infrastructure Hub in Sydney.

As the world recovers from the Paris attacks, leaders will need to wake up to their fragile economies. The only saving grace for the G20's role in strengthening the global economy is China's host year in 2016.