CBI Director-General Tony Danker kicked off the B7 Summit with a call for greater international collaboration on the biggest issues we all face across the world.
As we move from crisis to recovery he said the UK can act as ‘global broker’ to form international consensus in the year where the UK hosts the G7 in Cornwall and COP26 in Glasgow.
The CBI – in partnership with Deloitte – is hosting the B7 Summit, starting with a global CEO Summit, before the formal leaders meeting takes place on 11 and 12 May. The summit focuses on areas from net zero and global trade to tackling the global pandemic and making the most of the digital revolution. It brings together the leading business organisations of the G7 nations, with India, Australia, South Africa and South Korea also represented.
Welcome to the 2021 B7 CEO summit.
Every B7 is a moment for global business leaders, across the world, to meet at a pivotal moment in the political calendar – just ahead of the G7. Less than 5 weeks from now.
With seven of the world’s leading economies: the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, and the US. Coming together – to build consensus.
At the CBI, it has long been our privilege to join these annual summits. But this year we are delighted to be hosting. Alongside our strategic partner today, Deloitte.
And over the next three days, we’ll be joined by our fellow business federations from the G7, senior cabinet ministers, across government, Chief Economists, leaders from the IMF and the WTO and more than 200 UK and global CEOs. From every sector – energy, hospitality, tech, services, transport, education, manufacturing.
But this B7 is unlike most that have come before.
This G7 will be more important than most that have come before.
And then at the end of the year, COP26 in Glasgow becomes a key moment in the history of our planet. Unlike most that have come before.
Business ready to serve
Right now, economies across the world are in crisis. Covid-19 continues to devastate lives. While millions have been vaccinated other countries fight, day-to-day, to tackle the virus. Even now, in India …our thoughts and solidarity are with those facing ongoing outbreaks.
We are learning that success in one part of the world is futile, without common efforts everywhere.
This crisis demands an entirely new level of international partnership. To deploy medicines, treatments, vaccines, and expertise where they’re needed most.
And as businesses, we stand ready to serve. Helping, in any way we can, with ongoing relief efforts.
At the CBI, we’ve been coordinating with UK firms to secure critical resources and supplies. From oxygen cylinders and ventilators – to PPE, antiviral drugs, and testing.
Because I firmly believe that business has a vital role to play. Not only as an advocate of international cooperation, but as an agent for progress.
From crisis to recovery
And looking to the year ahead, Covid has forced us to rip up the old economic rulebook. With the hit to the global economy three times more severe than the 2008 financial crisis.
And as we begin to shift, from crisis to recovery business now has a once-in-a-generation opportunity. To shape our economic response to this pandemic.
For the past year, businesses have been in crisis mode, thankful for government support – a real financial lifeline.
But now there is an imperative for growth and a real belief in building a better decade ahead.
With 2021, therefore, as pivotal a year as any we can remember.
A turning point
I believe we as international business leaders have both an obligation, and an opportunity, to forge this.
We’re at a real turning point.
For the past 40 years or more, globalisation has shaped the way we work internationally. We’ve seen the movement of people, goods, and ideas across borders like never before in history.
And even in times of crisis – after 2008 we saw a remarkable level of international coordination.
But in recent years, that’s changed.
Brexit was the biggest shake-up in British politics for a generation. The rise of China has shifted geopolitical fault lines. And lately, protectionism has taken hold. With data showing that, in 2017 more than 50% of exports from G20 countries were subject to restrictive trade measures... Everything from import tariffs to export bans. Up 30% in 12 years.
Together, I worry these shifts mark a retreat from internationalism at the very moment we need it most.
I am really hopeful that next month, in Cornwall, global political leaders will leave protectionism at the door and find a renewed commitment to joint endeavour.
The challenges we face – Covid, recovery, climate change need leaders to lean in, not stand off. To collaborate around common goals and to make real commitments to work in concert.
And I really believe that we, as business, can role model that spirit and action.
So this week, it’s up to us, as businesses to do just that.
And that begins today. Inviting leading business organisations and CBI members from around the world to shape our global recovery agenda. And to show how we can solve problems quickly, across borders in a way that states can’t or won’t.
The vaccine rollout is the ultimate example.
It has showed the real potential for business to find solutions, even where trade barriers exist. And companies we all know – Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and others, have worked with governments and universities to make those solutions a reality. With governments and scientists sharing data - and research findings freely around the world.
True collaboration between all parts of society. And a global supply chain, where it matters most. Helping tackle one of the biggest crises we’ve ever faced.
What this summit can achieve
So what’s on the agenda?
Well, it’s our hope that, over the next few days we can do four big things.
First, strengthen our international resilience to global health emergencies. Looking at what the barriers and major risks might be. And not only where government can help, but how, as firms, we can step up and lead.
Second, is promoting global trade after a year of supply chain disruption, and rising protectionism. Particularly looking at ways to revitalise the World Trade Organisation. To help establish ambitious norms, and standards. And thereby help business power our global recovery.
So it’s great to have the new WTO Director General with us tomorrow.
And as businesses, we should be as vocal as possible in championing the benefits of free and fair trade – for not only our economy and society.
Third, we want to look at making trade more digital.
Today – of course – even simple things like sending an email or booking a hotel abroad now rely on the flow of data across borders. And we’ve seen the importance of digital trade more than ever during the covid crisis. When sharing research findings – like genome data – between countries, quickly has helped millions of people get vaccinated at record speed.
Digital opportunities enabled by data flows at the heart of a global recovery.
Fourth and finally – we want to spark a race to the top on net-zero.
We know the climate crisis won’t be solved by any one nation alone. And we need to see a seismic shift. With G7 countries coming together, securing commitments and discussing ideas.
Like an emerging market for carbon capture technology, in high emitting countries. Once a radical idea, now it’s vital for our future as part of our path to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, later this year.
The truth about Net Zero is that – without business action – it will remain elusive.
It will be businesses that innovate new energy solutions, new green industries, and clusters. And it will be businesses who work out how to transition all parts of our economy and society to a decarbonised world.
If our 7 countries – if our 7 business communities don’t lead that endeavour then who will?
In the UK we can play our part
Seven countries, seven economies… aligning on how the world builds back better.
But let’s not wait for the others to move.
This only works if as nations, and economies, we each take big leaps in parallel.
In the UK we need to seize the moment.
We need business to transform the economy and realise a better decade. And at the CBI, we want to play our part.
So later this month, we will publish a major study looking at where and how the UK can begin to build back from this pandemic and the big trends that will shape our economy ahead.
And we’ve done some real number crunching. Looking at trade, for example – where we know so many brilliant UK firms have the potential to export. Their products and services are the best of the best. But still, 8 in 10 UK firms have never traded internationally.
And over the next decade, that opportunity – a new generation of SME exporters could boost UK exports by £20bn, in 2030.
And on decarbonisation, we can really pioneer energy markets, develop renewable technologies, and invent new green products and service. Not only in service of society. But in service of economic growth too. And not only for Britain, but for the world.
These are the kind of prizes that every country can be reaching for, to power our global recovery.
A race to the top. A competition to the top. And collaboration to ensure that this leads to shared prosperity for all countries and shared prosperity within countries.
Above all, this year must be a moment we look back on and say we did everything we could to rebuild from crisis.
Today’s CEO Summit is the perfect launchpad.
UK and global business coming together, discussing solutions, directly feeding into the B7 Summit over the next two days. With our conversations, and our resulting communiques step one.
On Wednesday we will hand the baton to the Prime Minister. To present to the G7 a business community ready, willing, and able to make 2021 a turning point for the world economy.
It’s starting right now.