An exclusive group of high-profile business leaders from around the world will have a chance to tell the Group of 20 finance ministers and Prime Minister Stephen Harper what they think of everything from a bank tax to protectionism as the Toronto summit convenes next week.
The business leaders from most of the G20 nations have been hand-selected by their governments. The list of attendees includes Alexei Mordashov, the chief executive officer of Russia's OAO Severstal, Cesar Alierta, CEO of Spain's Telefonica and, from the United Kingdom, Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline and Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC Holding PLC.
Canada's delegation was chosen by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, which is organizing the event - dubbed the B20 - at the behest of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. It will be larger than those from the other countries.
It includes former deputy prime minister John Manley, who is now the head of the CCCE; Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; Hartley Richardson, CEO of James Richardson and Sons; Bill Downe, CEO of Bank of Montreal; Rick George, CEO of Suncor; Pierre Beaudoin, CEO of Bombardier; and Gordon Nixon, the CEO of Royal Bank of Canada.
"What we were asked to do was give business people the chance to offer their unvarnished advice, based on what they're experiencing in their own and in the global economy," Mr. Manley said Thursday. "We'll have a roundtable with the finance ministers and then a conversation with Prime Minister Harper."
Over the course of an all-day gathering on June 26, the business leaders will discuss among themselves the recession and the recovery, financial market risk and regulation, and the drivers of sustainable growth. Their discussions will mirror those of the G20 leaders that weekend.
"We'll have two bankers from Canada there," Mr. Manley noted. "Undoubtedly, they're going to want to talk about the bank tax."
The Canadian delegation also has a number of other points it would like to discuss: "continued trade liberalization, how we deal with the global economy going forward, what we're going to do about co-ordination of policies in a range of areas, from innovation through energy and the environment," Mr. Manley said. "I think that's an area where Canada's got some things to say, one we can be proud of. We're important in the natural resource sector, we're important contributors to the energy equation, and I think that becomes key to growth going forward."
The global business leaders are expected to hear from keynote speakers such as Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Mario Draghi, the chairman of the Financial Stability Board.
A number of corporate delegates are yet to be confirmed. The United States, for instance, has not yet told the B20's organizers whom it will be sending.
The decision by Canadian politicians to host a gathering of executives on the eve of the Toronto summit comes after former British prime minister Gordon Brown hosted a successful meeting with business leaders two weeks before the G20 summit in London in the spring of 2009. That meeting sought to give the business community a voice in G20 deliberations, albeit one that was channelled through Mr. Brown.
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