National leaders regularly attend summits. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation annual APEC Economic Leaders’ meeting will bring heads-of-government to Lima Peru in November 2016. The APEC leaders’ summit is the most influential regional leaders summit given that membership includes the U.S., China, and Japan – three of the world’s largest economies – along with Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and South Korea, among others.

At the global-level the G20 is arguably one of the most important leaders’ summits, but it is not the only one. The G7 just held a Leaders Summit in Ise – Shima Japan in May 2016, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government and the Non-Aligned Movement also hold frequent summits.

Although the decisions and actions of the host/summit chair – taken over an extended planning period – help to determine effective and successful summit outcomes, we know very little about the role of the chair in these summits, especially in the pre-negotiation phase, before the summit has commenced. For example, how does a summit chair – normally a national government – organize internally to conduct and lead an effective leaders’ summit? Once organized, how does a summit chair engage members to establish a work program to produce effective outcomes? And what can the chair do to lead a summit that accomplishes an intended result?

Such questions are grounded in the study of a chair leading a prenegotiation process within an institutionalized régime. Australia asked such questions in 2012 – 2014 during the lead-up to the 2014 Brisbane G20 Leaders’ Summit and now Germany is asking these same questions, as they prepare for the G20 Leaders’ Summit scheduled for Hamburg in July 2017.


Larry Crump, Deputy Director of the APEC Study Centre at Griffith University, helped the Germany Federal government in finding answers to their G20 questions through his public lecture to the Germany Development Institute (Deutsches Institut fur Entwicklungspolitik) in Bonn (the former German capital) in May 2016.

The slides for this public lecture are in the link at the end of this article, which begins by establishing a framework through a review of the relevant literature with a particular focus on prenegotiation and agenda building. This is followed by a review of G20 background and current G20 challenges: transparency, accountability, representational legitimacy and identity. This establishes a foundation for a detailed review of the G20 under Australia’s presidency during 2013–14, which culminated in the G20 Brisbane Leaders’ Summit, held in November 2014. Based on this case, we extract a framework that will support a chair in managing the prenegotiation process to produce an effective summit outcome. The presentation concludes by offering recommendations that respond to current G20 challenges, based on Australia’s experience in seeking to define or redefine G20 identity and legitimacy. A paper based on this presentation will eventually be published and available for distribution.

Download the presentation slides for the “Global Summit Prenegotiation: The Case of the G20 Australian Presidency” public lecture [PDF].

Article by Dr Larry Crump, Deputy Director, APEC Study Centre, Griffith Asia Institute.