World is better thanks to G20
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.