“No one country on its own can solve the problems we face”
Politics can achieve more through exchange in forums like the G20 than through isolationism, says Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
Minister, you hosted the meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bonn at the beginning of the year that was attended by representatives of the 20 largest industrial and emerging economies. Do you agree with the view that foreign policy is, above all, about crisis management?
There have been very few times when so many crises and conflicts have followed one another in such rapid succession. These crises are often very complex; they have various causes and impacts. They are also less restricted to specific regions than in the past. Of course, this gives us a lot to do in the field of diplomacy and keeps us in constant crisis mode without a chance to catch our breath. We shouldn’t, however, forget to look at the bigger picture beyond daily crisis management. When we constantly put out one fire after the other, we combat the symptoms of crises, but I believe it is also important to address their causes. Therefore, it is good for us to meet in forums like the G20 summit and openly discuss how we want to shape this world. Seeking a stable and fair global order is the core task of international politics.
What can multilateral organisations such as the G20 really achieve in terms of foreign policy? How closely are you working with the United Nations, for example?
No one country on its own can solve the international problems we face. Climate change, humanitarian disasters, terrorism – you cannot combat all of these problems with isolation, but you need to work with strong partners. In that regard, forums such as the G20 are an alternative model to the national isolationist policies we are currently seeing in many regions. As such, interlinking with the United Nations is extremely important. That is where a global order can develop most effectively and where the entire international community meets. It was with this in mind that the G20 Presidency also defined in its programme the goal of doing everything in its power to support the United Nations. That is also why UN Secretary-General António Guterres was present at the foreign ministers’ meeting in Bonn.
Partnership with Africa was a major issue at the foreign ministers’ meeting. Why is it so important, and what main topics will be considered here in Hamburg?
Africa is a continent with very different and complex challenges. One thing is clear, however, which is that it is a continent of opportunities and the future. Within the G20, we are all agreed that we should strengthen our cooperation with Africa. The G20 African Partnership Initiative is therefore a core theme of Germany’s G20 Presidency. For this reason, questions of security play just as much of a role as poverty alleviation and economic development. Achieving sustainable development targets is also an important instrument in supporting Africa on its path towards peace, security, prosperity and democracy. In addition, we want to strengthen the capacities of the African Union and other regional African organisations. That’s why we also invited the African Union to sit at the table with us during the foreign ministers’ meeting in Bonn.
Together with the G20, Germany wishes to improve the future sustainability of the global economy by implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris climate agreement. What conditions have to be met for this to succeed?
Together, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris climate agreement constitute a true quantum leap forward in sustainability by the international community. In 2015, we set ourselves ambitious and measurable targets for a sustainable future under the umbrella of the UN. The 2030 Agenda has the potential to become the equity project of our generation. I’m convinced it’s not only growth that is important, but also the type and quality of growth. This is not only measured by GDP. Social, economic and ecological equity are just as important for a truly stable global order as political factors like democratic participation and the separation of powers.
Globalisation is a concept with rather negative connotations for many people around the world today. What can politics do in forums like the G20 to ensure that a connected world is also a liveable and, above all, fairer world?
I understand that a lot of people are dissatisfied as a result of growing inequality in the world. However, globalisation is not responsible for this. Interconnectedness and exchange are good for us. They also present an opportunity to deliver more prosperity to all people. Therefore, it is not a matter of preventing globalisation, but shaping it in a better and fairer way. A good example is global sustainable supply chains. This is where politics and business – above all multinational corporations, of course – have the opportunity and the duty to get globalisation back on track. If the labour, social and environmental standards along the entire supply chain are right, everyone benefits from growth – not just CEOs. The G20 is going to focus on this issue intensively in the coming year.
On the topic of growth and prosperity: in many countries, doubts are increasing as to the advantages of free trade. Have we reached the end of neoliberalism? Are we moving towards a decline in global interdependence?
Our economic model and our social model are dependent on free and fair trade. I’ll give you an example: more than two million jobs in Germany are directly dependent on Asian trade. With cooperation and exchange, we can achieve more than by retreating into our national shells. That’s why I worry about some of the protectionist noises we’ve been hearing recently. Nevertheless, the protectionists will not succeed. Our model is too strong for that. //
COMMITTED TO PEOPLE
Sigmar Gabriel has been Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister since January 2017. The SPD politician was previously Federal Minister for Economic Affairs (2013–2017) and Federal Minister for the Environment (2005–2009). One of his key questions is: what is best for people? Peace, human rights, clean growth and good jobs are his core policies.