The G-20 summit has ended in Buenos Aires with a 31-point declaration called building consensus for fair and sustainable development. I am disappointed with the document, which has more posturing than an effort to find practical solutions to global and regional problems.
Except a few, other points in the statement are a rehash of the previous summit outcomes. The most notable exception is the justification provided by the US for its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and for the use of the energy sources for growth that have been deemed seriously harmful to the environment. I do not understand why other countries agreed to the point at all.
The other exception is the intention to reform the World Trade Organization. While every organization should be reviewed periodically so it would remain relevant and useful to changing requirements, this time the US seems motivated to to bend the rule-book in its favor and tear it if it cannot do so, not to strengthen the rule-based global trade. Yet another exception, some of the points in the statement are outright contradictory. For example, sustainable development and use of highly polluting and finite energy sources.
These exceptions appear in the declaration more as the yawning cracks and gaps between the member states and less as promise to make concerted and serious efforts to find global consensus to tackle global and regional problems.
Even in normal times, policies agreed at summit of 20 most important economies on earth seldom see the light of day in implementation due to wide differences existing between groups of members states and between individual countries within the groups themselves.
This time, the situation was not normal. According to some reports, even the US delegates did not know what position President Trump would take on critical issues when they flew to the Argentine capital. So there is no basis to believe that polices made on the fly will produce positive results for humanity.
However, multilateral summits should be judged not only on what comes out in their statements but also what transpires among key members in the bilateral meetings on the side. This time, the most consequential of bilateral meetings took place between President Trump and President Xi in which Trump agreed to hold additional fire of extra tariff on Chinese products for 90 days and Xi agreed to further open the Chinese market to American products.
Let us hope the two countries will agree on a deal within that period and save the world from an ugly trade war in which not only these two countries but also the rest of the world will suffer.
The meetings between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, between the British prime minister and Japanese Prime Minister Abe, and between French President Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salim were widely reported in the United Kingdom.
May defended her deal with the European Union, which will be voted on in 9 days from now and which is likely to fail. Abe warned May not to crash out of the EU. And Macron chastised Salim over the murder of Jamal Khassoggi, a Saudi national and The Washington Post contributor, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. None of them much consequential. Trump and May, whose countries are number one and two arms suppliers to the kingdom, were loud in their silence on the issue of murder with the Saudi crown prince.
That said, the issuance of the G20 declaration in itself is quite positive. Trump had torpedoed the statement of the G7 summit in Canada early this year. Therefore, not many people, including me, had expected this statement. The Trump administration seems to have agreed to put up a nice face this time to insert its own problematic points.
However, we need more than a nice face and a few contradictory paragraphs in the declaration to grapple with the world’s numerous nagging issues and perilous problems. If other leaders tried to convince Trump to not abandon the US role in global matters, I did not see it in the declaration. Neither did I see the engagement of other world leaders while G20 members were drawing the lines of global fortunes in Buenos Aires.
For instance, the leaders of several Asia-Pacific countries, including Nepali leaders, were busy getting blessings from the high priests of terribly defamed organization in Kathmandu rather paying attention to G20 meeting and its outcome. That is a pity.