World is bet­ter thanks to G20

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

Judg­ing by how much went wrong and how lit­tle went right at the lat­est Group of 20 sum­mit, many peo­ple will ar­gue it should be the last.

Large parts of Hamburg, Germany — which hosted Fri­day’s and Satur­day’s gath­er­ing — were trashed by pro­test­ers in ri­ots that in­jured nearly 500 po­lice and ended with hun­dreds of anti-cap­i­tal­ist mil­i­tants be­hind bars.

At times, life in­side the sum­mit seemed equally grim as lone-wolf U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump made it im­pos­si­ble to form a united front against cli­mate change and eco­nomic pro­tec­tion­ism.

So why con­tinue the costly, em­bar­rass­ing G20 farce, the crit­ics will ask.

The an­swer is that the world needs and will con­tinue to need the G20 with its reg­u­lar, of­ten pro­duc­tive meet­ings of the heads of state, fi­nance min­is­ters and cen­tral bank gov­er­nors of the world’s lead­ing economies.

To­gether, the 19 na­tions and European Union which make up the G20 ac­count for two-thirds of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, 85 per cent of its eco­nomic out­put and 80 per cent of its green­house gas emis­sions.

This group is more nim­ble in re­spond­ing to rapidly chang­ing global trends and crises than the larger, of­ten un­wieldy United Na­tions.

At the same time, the G20 is more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the world’s eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal di­ver­sity than the smaller Group of 7.

With the ex­cep­tion of Ja­pan, the G7 is lim­ited to European and North Amer­i­can mem­bers.

In wel­come con­trast, the G20 has a place for ris­ing eco­nomic pow­er­houses such as China, In­dia, Brazil and In­done­sia as well as Mex­ico, South Africa, Saudi Ara­bia and the volatile Rus­sia.

There’s a strong case to be made for hav­ing a size­able yet man­age­able fo­rum where the lead­ers of most of the world’s big­gest economies meet per­son­ally, ex­change ideas and tackle ma­jor prob­lems.

The re­la­tion­ships and un­der­stand­ing en­gen­dered by these gath­er­ings can pay big div­i­dends long af­ter the sum­mits end.

Be­yond the the­ory, how­ever, the G20 pro­duces on a prac­ti­cal level.

The Hamburg meet­ing served as a wel­come check on the bom­bas­tic Trump and his ef­forts to drag Amer­ica down an iso­la­tion­ist, na­tion­al­is­tic path.

Yes, Trump was an out­lier, a stub­born ob­sta­cle to G20 unity.

Yet 19 coun­tries, in­clud­ing China, the world’s great­est green­house gas emit­ter, agreed as never be­fore on the need to tackle global warm­ing.

Al­though Trump is yank­ing the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris cli­mate change deal, the fi­nal G20 state­ment on Satur­day de­clared the agree­ment is “ir­re­versible.”

That mes­sage un­der­mines Trump’s ig­no­rant de­nials about cli­mate change.

The ma­jor­ity of the world’s great­est economies re­main united on this front.

Like­wise with trade, the over­whelm­ing ver­dict from the G20 op­poses Trump’s pro­tec­tion­ist games.

Im­per­fect though the G20 may be, the world is bet­ter for it, its achieve­ments and the bonds it fos­ters. Some progress beats none at all. That said the lat­est sum­mit does, with its vi­o­lent, de­struc­tive demon­stra­tions, pro­vide a com­pelling ar­gu­ment for hold­ing fu­ture meet­ings in more re­mote set­tings or at UN head­quar­ters in New York City.

There’s no need to turn a vi­brant, peace­ful city into a tar­get for vi­o­lent, dis­af­fected mobs.

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