“For the Netherlands, Brexit is a dark cloud with a silver edge,” says Aart Jacobi, the Dutch ambassador in Japan. He sees many Japanese companies moving activities from the UK to the EU, including the Netherlands.
Among others Panasonic, Sony and the Japanese banks Norinchukin and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group are moving activities to the Netherlands.
“Japanese people become nervous of the Brexit. For them, the United Kingdom has always been the gateway to Europe, all major car factories are in the UK. “Despite all Japanese relocations, Brexit is negative for our trade flows,” he says.
Free trade is therefore one of the most important themes that the Netherlands is aiming for at the G20 this year, says Jacobi. This year the meeting of the 20 most important economies in the world takes place in Japan. The Netherlands has been invited by Japan to join as a guest. Although our country is the seventeenth largest economy in the world, we do not have a permanent seat at the table because the EU is already overrepresented.
Netherlands was already a guest at the last G20, which took place in Buenos Aires. Prime Minister Rutte and Queen Máxima moved in there.
“That is precisely the case now, because international institutions are under pressure”, says Roel Nieuwenkamp, the Dutch ambassador in Argentina. “The G20 is not only about what is discussed with the joint heads of government and what will be included in the final declaration. But also the agreements made between world leaders. For example, US President Trump used the G20 in December to sign a truce with President Xi Jinping in the trade war. “
Nieuwenkamp and Jacobi were in Hague last week for the Ambassadors’ Conference, the annual return days. There, they are committed to promoting the interests of BV Netherlands. For Nieuwenkamp last year was largely dominated by the G20, Jacobi is currently in the middle of it. Apart from the summit for government leaders, the G20 consists of meetings between ministers, for example on matters such as tax avoidance or antibiotic resistance.
According to both ambassadors, the G20 is more than a fancy talk club where world leaders put it on an agreement. In the economic field, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are the most important institutions. But Nieuwenkamp calls the G20 the ‘outboard engine’ for what is happening in these bodies. “If the main countries set a course, other countries will also participate.”
According to Nieuwenkamp and Jacobi it has not become easier in recent years to get the noses on the trade side the same way. Nieuwenkamp:
“Making agreements when there are so many conflicting interests was always difficult. There is no low-hanging fruit in G20 context. But the problem is that things that we have already agreed on are now under pressure again. Especially by the US. We must ensure that we do not lose the good things that have been achieved internationally.”
During the previous G20, there has been a long discussion about reform of the WTO. That the unwieldy referee of world trade must be reformed, there are countries that agree. But much progress has not yet been made. Jacobi:
“These are not problems that you solve equally quickly, that takes a long time. This sometimes leads to cynical reactions. I understand that, but I do not like it. If you compare with ten years ago, a lot has changed in sweatshops in Bangladesh. “