Am­bi­tious agenda marks G20 sum­mit

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

The G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg, Germany, takes place against the back­ground of a rapidly chang­ing global sit­u­a­tion. For the host, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, the three key ques­tions are: How Germany can en­sure the G20 part­ners con­tinue to pro­mote free trade and re­ject pro­tec­tion­ism? How to save the Paris cli­mate change agree­ment? And how to strengthen mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions against a broad anti-glob­al­iza­tion trend?

These are Her­culean tasks and may be be­yond one G20 leader. Merkel sur­prised many by ques­tion­ing whether Europe could still rely on the United States af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vis­its to the Euro­pean Union and NATO head­quar­ters in Brus­sels, and Si­cily (to at­tend the G7 sum­mit). She said Europe would have to do more for its own se­cu­rity given Trump’s am­biva­lence on NATO, re­jec­tion of the Paris cli­mate change agree­ment and “Amer­ica First” trade pol­icy. Other Euro­pean lead­ers, with the ex­cep­tion of Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, sup­ported Merkel. But most other G20 coun­tries are seek­ing their own bi­lat­eral trade deals with the US and there is un­likely to be a 19-1 sit­u­a­tion at the two­day Ham­burg sum­mit that be­gins on Fri­day.

Merkel will, how­ever, seek to coax the US back into the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, for which she should have the sup­port of most of the other G20 mem­bers. Even though she may not suc­ceed, she has to make the ef­fort, not least be­cause cli­mate change is a top pri­or­ity for Ger­man vot­ers, and Germany is set to go to the polls in Septem­ber. Merkel will also seek agree­ment to strengthen the mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions but again this may run into op­po­si­tion from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

At the prepara­tory meet­ings for the sum­mit, the US re­fused to agree any word­ing sup­port­ing free trade or com­bat­ing pro­tec­tion­ism, re­flect­ing the in­ter­nal dis­putes in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over the fu­ture course of US trade pol­icy. Trump has al­ready pulled the US out of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship agree­ment and an­nounced that he wants to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment. The prospects for a transat­lantic trade agree­ment are un­known. And given the impasse on trade, it is un­likely that there will be any agree­ment on strength­en­ing the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion or any re­lated bod­ies.

Re­gional se­cu­rity is­sues, mi­gra­tion and refugee flows, poverty, hunger and epi­demics will be in­cluded on the G20 agenda. Ber­lin will also seek to re­duce the like­li­hood and neg­a­tive im­pact of pos­si­ble fu­ture crises through for­ward­look­ing co­op­er­a­tion. In Merkel’s view, sup­ported by the EU, the need for in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion with a view to shap­ing grow­ing global con­nec­tiv­ity for the ben­e­fit of all has never been greater.

As the G20 chair, Germany will press other mem­bers to im­ple­ment struc­tural re­forms and sta­bil­ity-ori­ented macroe­co­nomic poli­cies with fo­cus on the re­silience of in­di­vid­ual economies. Germany has never been a fan of bor­row­ing or al­low­ing na­tional debt to get out of hand. But here it may face op­po­si­tion from Ja­pan as well as some EU mem­bers, in­clud­ing France and Italy. In ad­di­tion, Ber­lin will con­tinue to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion on in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial and tax­a­tion is­sues, em­ploy­ment, and trade and in­vest­ment. The Ham­burg sum­mit will re­view the nu­mer­ous pledges agreed at last year’s sum­mit in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince, in­clud­ing on cor­rup­tion and money laun­der­ing.

Since Germany wants the G20 to ac­cept that tack­ling mi­gra­tion and refugee flows is a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity, Merkel may em­pha­size the need for a stronger com­mit­ment to end the con­flict in Syria and to fur­ther de­velop ap­proaches in or­der to en­sure Africa’s sus­tain­able eco­nomic progress. This will be linked to a dis­cus­sion on agri­cul­ture, wa­ter sup­plies, en­ergy, health­care and food se­cu­rity.

Like China last year, Germany can be ex­pected to or­ga­nize an ef­fi­cient sum­mit. But even the best-pre­pared sum­mits can be hi­jacked by sud­den emer­gen­cies, so the ar­range­ments, apart from be­ing ef­fi­cient, should also be flex­i­ble. And if Merkel can achieve even half of her am­bi­tious agenda, then the sum­mit can be de­scribed as a suc­cess.

The need for in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion with a view to shap­ing grow­ing global con­nec­tiv­ity ... has never been greater.

The au­thor is the di­rec­tor of the EU-Asia Cen­tre in Brus­sels.

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