Another G-20 Summit

P 23.04.2019 U Vladimir Terehov

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The annual meeting of political leaders of countries from twenty of the world’s leading world economies (The Group of 20, G-20) will be held this time on June 28-29 in the Japanese city of Osaka. However, there are already reasons to discuss both the significance of the G-20 forum, as well as current issues that will be presented for review to its executive body, which is what a “Summit” is.

From its inception in the second half of the 1990s, the G-20 format has trodden the path of gradual evolution as a continuously operating body, whose main function at the expert level goes on almost constantly and within a wide span of the world’s economic problems. The Summit tackles the most important, and to a limited extent, previously examined issues Such matters occupy a larger and larger share in the area of finances and international trade.

The Group of 20’s meetings at the highest level began to be held in 2008, in particular, as an emergency measure of reaction to the financial crisis that burst out at that time. Since new problems keep piling onto the negative consequences (especially in the area of international trade), the G-20 Summit began assembling annually.

At the current stage where the radical transformation of the world’s order is accelerating and nearly all international institutions are losing competence, the G-20 remains almost the only international platform of an intergovernmental format for attempting to accommodate viewpoints (often directly contradictory) on existing problems, and their resolutions.

The G-20 occupies an intermediate position between intergovernmental organizations and forums, such as the UN and G-7. The former is too cumbersome and overburdened with “humanitarian” problems that have firmly saddled the world’s political self-righteousness.

As far as the G-7 is concerned, in addition to the same “overburdening,” that configuration does not include such prominent economies as China, India, Brazil, whereas Russia withdrew (with great timing). In addition, over a wide range of issues, disagreements are intensifying among leading western countries that make up the G-7. This manifested itself sharply among the Group of 7’s ministers of foreign affairs at their last meeting, which was held on April 5-6 in the French resort city of Dinard.

Mark Pompeo and Jeremy Hunt didn’t consider their presence necessary, and sent their deputies to Dinard. Over the course of the negotiations, the ministers failed to reach agreement on half of the most important questions raised. For example, the situation in the Middle East.

It’s already being forecasted ( that all the disagreements noted in Dinard will jump over to the forum of the G-7 countries’ leaders, which has been scheduled toward the end of August of this year in another French resort, Biarritz. This author is not interested in papers which may be signed at this event, but rather the question of whether Donald Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister will attend.

G-20, according to the initially designated purpose and list of participants has been, we repeat, the most suitable forum to discuss the current stage of the “Great World Game’s” most important problems, which exist mainly in the economic area. Therefore, more and more discussions take place regarding the prime importance of the G-20 against the backdrop all other numerous international platforms

Nevertheless, its own existence cannot, of course, guarantee resolution of global problems, which remain under the purview of this forum’s participants. Meanwhile the leader among them (the US), for some time, has been experiencing an allergic reaction to the very multilateral format for discussing international issues, preferring bilateral negotiations.

This is especially true with regard to the US’s main, current geopolitical opponent, which is China. That very preference of the American leadership for a bilateral format to discuss one of the key geopolitical problems, brought about by (for all intents and purposes) the trade war with China, means that Washington needs to approach Beijing directly. To prevent this war from getting ugly, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires to launch a new series of bilateral discussions.

As during last year, among the preparatory works for the next G-20 summit in Osaka, a special significance is retained by the “Meeting of ministers of finance and central bank managers,” which is planned for June 8-9 in Fukuoka.

It must be noted that all of the Summit’s future participants had the opportunity to work back on April 11-12 in Washington, where they attended one of two annual events conducted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The first of them is called the Spring Meeting, which took place on April 8 through 14 in the US Capital. During this Meeting discussions were held regarding the same key problems of today’s world economy that interest G-20’s group of ministers: how to avoid the emergence of divisions within the world economic body and continue the process of its globalization; how to extinguish those trade wars that have already begun; the kinds of assessments regarding the rate of development of the world’s economy in the current year. All these problems, we repeat, are at the center of the “Great World Game.” Of course, the overall world political climate cannot but affect economic affairs.

In a compressed form, the thesis of the interconnection between economic and political factors, their negative influence on each other and the current, overall world situation was expressed at the press conference of Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Taro Aso, upon conclusion of the Washington meeting of G-20 ministers. In particular, he pointed out the necessity for advance and careful monitoring of the “possible appearance of any sources of tension in the area of trade, political uncertainties, geopolitical risks, and sudden emergence of problems with financing.”

As to assessments of prospects of the world’s economy for the current year, those are, overall, constrained and skeptical in nature, with hopes for changes for the better in the second half of 2019, and the beginning of 2020. In particular, in April the IMF reduced by 0.2% (from 3.5% to 3.3%) January’s assessments for the rate of growth of the world’s economy.

The Japanese refrain from any type of concrete numbers, limiting themselves to stating the already noted negative effect on the national economy of the slowdown in the rate of growth with one of their main foreign trade partners, meaning China (due to the trade war with the US). Though talk is only about the slowdown in the rate of growth, and not about economic recession. It is, however, reminded that only 30% of Japan’s GDP comes from foreign trade.

It will be interesting to become acquainted with assessments of the current situation, forecasts of changes in the world’s economy, and also recommendations in the struggle with negative tendencies in it, which will be made in two months in the Japanese city of Fukuoka by the same ministers and central bank managers of G-20 member countries.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on issues in the Asia-Pacific Region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”


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