A Rendezvous with Destiny?
The Group of 20 held their 2018 meeting in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, on November 29 to December 1, 2018. In most of their meetings, the heads of state have discussed economic issues. This time around, however, politics dominated the deliberations. Although the trade spat involving the United States and China was on the minds of the leaders attending the meeting, nothing of substance was achieved. A number of political issues came up for discussions mostly in the bilateral conversations among the leaders. The news that President Donald Trump cancelled his planned meeting with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, dominated the event.
The G-20 summit this year voiced a risk warning. “G-20: Darkening global economy outlook points to bumpy 2019 ride” highlighted the Financial Times magazine in its special report on G-20 published on Nov. 29. Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF, informed the G-20 world leaders that the 2017 rapid growth will not return soon. She said that, globally, “risks are beginning to materialize.” For his part, UN chief Antonio Guterres said, “This is a make-it-or-break-it moment.”
The G-20 summit, established as a risk management platform in 2008 in Washington, DC in response to the global financial crisis, marked its 10th anniversary in 2018. Its core mission is promoting dialogue while preserving diversity in the process of developing global policies that tackle major issues; it is an occasion to shape positive trade agenda and reduce trade strains.
In a phase of consensus-scarcity in the political surroundings, with major setbacks facing globalization and multilateralism, fairness and sustainability were the highlights of the G-20 2018. The summit selected “Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development” as its theme reviewing consensus, a core value carried by the summit over the last decade, looking back through history to see what has been achieved and laying the foundations of consensus for the following years. This 10th anniversary was envisioned as the perfect time for reflecting upon all the shared values, accomplishments and effectiveness of the global forum and is a learning process on how to cooperate systematically. Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, the host country of the summit, in a message of unity and shared responsibility in his remarks conveyed that the solution is “dialogue, dialogue and dialogue.”
Since its inception, the scope of the G-20 agenda has stretched to bring in a wider array of topics and challenges, including sustainable development, agriculture, trade, energy, climate change, gender equality and migration.
In the 2018 summit, several of these challenges were discussed stressing emerging priorities related to: the future of work, sustainable food future, gender mainstreaming, taxation and the infrastructure for development. This was in addition to supporting the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and delivering a people-centred plan and a vision to the future advocating for free and fair access to justice.
Read More: FROM SUMMITS TO STRATEGIC TENSIONS
Fairness and sustainability were placed at the forefront of the G-20 agenda 2018. Access to justice is essential for achieving Agenda 2030 and inclusive development. Growth has not been able to profit everybody, which undermined people’s trust in globalization. It is estimated by OECD that “4 billion people around the world live outside the protection of the law,” and over “4 billion people globally do not have access to justice.” As a result of lack of access to justice, vulnerable people are increasingly at risk which intensifies violence and effects negatively the human rights’ principles.
Ongoing concerns about inequality prevail every day, reflecting a need to act faster to ensure that growth is fairly shared.
Fairness has been always a request from people globally. One of the major lessons learned through history is that global agreements observed as unfair are unsustainable; thus, the G-20 must seek solutions that all members see as fair to live up to its theme of building consensus for fair and sustainable development and achieve the goals promised to achieve.
It is only through commitment to equality, communication and creative solutions that a fair and sustainable society can be reached; achieving that requires consensus, patience and dedication.
Societies have been changing in a never imagined way. Globalization, climate change, technology and growing inequalities are key factors of change. Jobs, for example, are changing like never before. Universities, thinkers and think tanks can support governments in building more inclusive societies. Think 20 (T-20), has been for several years one of the engagement groups including community stakeholders around G-20, and, at this summit, it has been carried to a different level increasing its activities to provide international solutions to global challenges. “What is dialogue without consensus? What is power without fairness? What is development without sustainability?” These all-encompassing questions presented in the T-20 open a global conversation about how to achieve goals.
In an era of widening inequalities in income and opportunities, the world faces many challenges, but fairness is the only value which holds them all.
The fight for fairness and parity has been a continuous force of conflict and violence.
It is important to understand the meaning of fairness in the 21st century. Its synergies with human rights, human dignity and respect need to be re-examined today; these enquiries have been posed for several decades now and still can promote hot debates and in-depth discussions.
How can we promote prosperity in a just and equitable way? What type of consensus the G-20 concluded to? Multilateralism, illustrated by the G-20, is a “deal-maker or a deal-breaker?”
Some of the overarching questions are still to be addressed.
A look at what happened at the G-20 summit in Argentina
Leaders of the world’s largest economic powers agreed to overhaul the global body that regulates trade disputes, but they faced resistance from President Donald Trump over the Paris accord on climate change. Here are some of the main developments at the Group of 20 summit:
World Trade Organization
All G-20 leaders called for reforming the World Trade Organization and the issue will further be discussed during the group’s next summit in Osaka, Japan, in June 2019. The gathering’s final statement, however, did not mention protectionism after negotiators said the US objected to the wording. Trump has criticized the WTO and taken aggressive trade policies targeting China and the European Union.
US-China Trade War
Financial markets will be cheered by the US announcement that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at a dinner after the summit to have a 90-day truce in their trade battle.
Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise tariffs from Jan. 1 on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Xi agreed to buy a “not yet agreed upon, but very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial” and other products from the United States to reduce America’s huge trade deficit with China.
The cease-fire will buy time for the two countries to work out their differences in a dispute over Beijing’s aggressive drive to supplant US technological dominance.
Prince Under Pressure
There were some awkward moments for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as some leaders called him out over the gruesome killing of dissident Saudi newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Istanbul.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only G-20 leader to raise the issue during the official session. Erdogan called bin Salman’s response — that the crime had not been proven — “unbelievable” and complained that Saudi authorities have been uncooperative.
But it wasn’t all bad for bin Salman. He was not shunned, and on the gathering’s first day, he and Russian President Vladimir Putin engaged in a hearty grip-and-grin as the two seemingly revelled in their shared status as relative outcasts.
Western leaders confronted Putin over Russia’s recent seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels and crews, but the diplomatic pressure didn’t seem to bring either side closer to solving the conflict. Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of being responsible for the standoff.
Trump cited Russia’s actions as the reason that he cancelled a planned meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the summit. EU Council President Donald Tusk sharply criticized “Russia’s aggression” against Ukraine.
Putin tried to convince Trump and the leaders of France and Germany that Russia’s actions were justified — even pulling out a piece of paper and drawing a map of the disputed area to make his point.
The final communiqué signed by all 20 member nations said 19 of them reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate accord. The only holdout was the US, which has withdrawn from the pact under Trump.
Still, environmental groups praised the statement as welcome news.
After two years of negotiations, Trump signed a revised North American trade pact with the leaders of Canada and Mexico on the sidelines of the summit. The deal is meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump long denigrated as a “disaster.”
The new pact won’t take effect unless approved by the legislatures of all three nations, and there are questions about the pact’s prospects in the US Congress, especially now that Democrats will control the House. Democrats and their allies in the labour movement are already demanding changes.
G20 and Pakistan
The Group of Twenty is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors, mostly of big economies, which account for around 90 percent of the gross world product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade, two-thirds of the world population, and about half of the world’s land area. The G20 includes the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia among others.
Founded in 1999 with the aim of discussing policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability, the G20 has expanded its agenda since 2008 and heads of government or heads of state, as well as finance ministers and foreign ministers, have periodically conferred at summits ever since. It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.
Pakistan is the only large developing country that is not a member of the group although both the size of its population and also the size of the economy should have resulted in its being included. It is the failure of diplomacy that has kept Pakistan out. The country’s absence from the Group has contributed to the poor narrative that has been widely accepted by the West. Pakistan is now generally regarded as a country that does not warrant presence in a forum such as the G20.