G20 talks should lead to mean­ing­ful ac­tion

▶ Find­ing col­lec­tive so­lu­tions to glob­ally press­ing prob­lems is key for world lead­ers

The National - News - - OPINION -

As more than 50 min­is­ters and world lead­ers meet to­day in Ar­gentina for this year’s G20 sum­mit, they will have three pri­or­i­ties in mind: the fu­ture of work, in­fra­struc­ture for de­vel­op­ment and sus­tain­able food pro­duc­tion. These themes, em­brac­ing ev­ery­thing from agri­cul­ture and the dig­i­tal econ­omy to ed­u­ca­tion, cli­mate change and gen­der equal­ity, have been the sub­ject of more than 45 meet­ings in 11 cities this year, in­volv­ing thou­sands of of­fi­cials from G20 na­tions. But it is what hap­pens on the side­lines of the lead­ers’ sum­mit in Buenos Aires over the next cou­ple of days that will set the tone for in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture. There will be the in­evitable speeches and photo op­por­tu­ni­ties but the real busi­ness – tack­ling cru­cial is­sues from trade tar­iffs to oil prices – will take place in back rooms and cor­ri­dors.

Gath­er­ing the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in the world in one place is a unique op­por­tu­nity for air­ing crit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, al­low­ing world lead­ers to move be­yond pos­tur­ing and onto the busi­ness of get­ting things done. The G20 has proven ef­fec­tive on many is­sues, from its on­go­ing anti-cor­rup­tion ini­tia­tive, which has had a global im­pact since it was launched in 2010, to the $1 tril­lion jobs-and-credit re­gen­er­a­tion pack­age launched in 2009 af­ter the global crash. Much of the fo­cus this week will be on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica and the rest of the world. He has a busy cou­ple of days ahead. Whether that in­volves a one-to-one with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin re­mains to be seen. They have much to dis­cuss, in­clud­ing the Rus­sian at­tack on Ukrainian war­ships that might yet scup­per the planned meet­ing, Rus­sia’s ex­pan­sion­ist pol­icy and its al­leged in­ter­fer­ence in other coun­tries’ elec­tions. Mr Trump is also ex­pected to host a din­ner on Satur­day for Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors will be wait­ing to see whether the two reach an ac­cord on their dam­ag­ing tar­iffs war. Cer­tainly since the last time the G20 met, there has been an in­crease in pro­tec­tion­ism, with wor­ry­ing im­pli­ca­tions for world trade. The sum­mit is also be the first time Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man has ap­peared be­fore the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity since the death of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi.

Dif­fer­ences aside, the global al­liances played out on the G20 stage are a re­minder of the ben­e­fits of hav­ing such a fo­rum to es­tab­lish con­sen­sus on the is­sues that mat­ter. They might not al­ways de­liver on the prom­ises made but such plat­forms give hope of talk fol­lowed by mean­ing­ful ac­tion. It is only when their lead­ers sit down to­gether that there is a real chance of find­ing col­lec­tive so­lu­tions to glob­ally press­ing is­sues.

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