The leaders of the G20 are meeting in Buenos Aires amid growing geopolitical and trade tensions. The Summit is a long shot from 2009, the first time it was held at the leaders' level. Back then, governments of the 19 industrialized nations (plus the EU) managed to avoid a major trade war in the face of the worst economic recession since 1929. Today, the US-China trade war is on, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is flaring up again, and the Khashoggi case continues to haunt Saudi Arabia.
The escalating trade war between the United States and China will be one of the hot issues during the Buenos Aires G20 meeting. This trade conflict, probably the most important since the second world war, started last January with the US introducing safeguard tariffs on imports from the world of solar panels and tariff rate-quotas on imports from the world of washing machines. These tariffs have been introduced in response to requests by US manufacturers.
As G20 leaders arrive in Buenos Aires to start their 13th summit on November 30, 2018, many observers wonder if they will fail, for the first time, to produce a collective communiqué at their summit’s end. Most assume that if they do, it will contain only a collection of watered-down, general platitudes, in sharp contrast to the 529 precise, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments that they made at their last summit, in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen,
My welcome address comes on behalf of Milan’s ISPI. I am honoured to be able to address you all, before we start a very promising T20 summit.
As the Group of 20 (G20) leaders assemble in Hamburg for their 12th summit on July 7-8, 2017, many wonder whether G20 summitry is worth the time and trouble, especially amidst the high profile divisions between German chancellor Angela Merkel’s open, cooperative Europe and President Donald Trump’s protectionist United States. Even if at Hamburg G20 leaders manage to make clear commitments, many doubt that they will actually deliver them once they leave their sunny global summit peak and return to the dark, distracting valleys of domestic politics back home.
WHAT IS THE G20?
The G20 is an international group initially founded in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis as a forum for the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries and the European Union. In 2008, in the midst of the global financial crisis, the US President George W. Bush invited the leaders of the G20 members to coordinate actions in order to respond to the crisis giving the start to the actual G20 Leader’s Summit. Since 2010 the meeting is held annually and the host country change every year.
Reaching some sort of global order has been a recurring temptation for the governments of the world’s great powers. It is the nature of things, and this temptation grew even more when the end of the Cold War brought some to regret the “certainties” that came with the clear conflict between East and West.
The work of the G20 benefits from the agenda-setting of the country holding the presidency as well as from the continuity that can be kept in the agendas, year after year. From this perspective, Germany, presiding over the G20 during 2017, will be able to fruitfully take up important items that have been developed under the Chinese presidency.
While the G20 originated with the aim to be more representative of developing countries’ interests than other existing global alliances, such as the G7, and the G20’s agenda has considerable importance in the development of Africa, South Africa remains the only permanent African member of the institution, the only African voice within the group. This under-representation of Africa is partly an internally-driven problem, i.e.