G20 leaders have found the minimum common ground on the global economy at a summit in Buenos Aires with a closing communiqué that left divisions on clear display.
The statement offered virtually no concrete promises and, under pressure from US President Donald Trump, avoided language on fighting protectionism and acknowledged Washington’s disagreement on battling climate change.
Here are key points from the communiqué by the Group of 20, which accounts for more than four-fifths of the global economy, after the two-day summit:
G20 signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate, which is all of them except the US, pledged the “full implementation” of the pact, which they called “irreversible.” They also took note, without further pledges, of UN scientists’ call for a more ambitious target of reducing warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
But the US reiterated its withdrawal from the agreement, “and affirms its strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security.”
Bowing to the view of Trump’s administration, the G20 said that multilateral trade was “falling short of its objectives” on promoting growth and job creation.
It called for reforms of the World Trade Organization “to improve its functioning,” saying progress would be reviewed at next year’s summit in Japan.
Calling the International Monetary Fund crucial to the global safety net, the G20 pledged to provide adequate funding and to meet a goal of finalizing new national quotas in time for the global lender’s spring 2019 meetings.
The G20 recommitted to a four-year-old goal of reducing the gender gap in the labour force by 25 percent by 2025. It supported doing more, including increasing efforts to bring education to girls.
Future of work
Noting that new technologies will transform the nature of labour, the G20 called for “an inclusive, fair and sustainable” future of work, with retraining of workers where needed.
Calling infrastructure a key driver of global growth, the G20 called for greater standardization in contract-making to encourage more private capital.
World Trade Organization
All G20 leaders called for reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the issue will be discussed during the group’s next summit in Osaka, Japan, in June. The gathering’s final statement, however, did not mention protectionism after negotiators said the US objected to the wording. Mr. Trump has criticized the WTO and adopted aggressive trade policies targeting China and the European Union.
Some Highlights –
US-China trade war
Financial markets will be cheered by the announcement that Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at a dinner after the summit to have a 90-day truce in their trade battle. Mr. Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise tariffs on January 1 on 200 billion dollars in Chinese goods. Mr. Xi agreed to buy a “not yet agreed upon, but very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial” and other products from the United States to reduce America’s huge trade deficit with China, the White House said. The ceasefire will buy time for the two countries to work out their differences in a dispute over Beijing’s aggressive drive to supplant US technological dominance.
Prince under pressure
There were some awkward moments for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as some leaders called him out over the gruesome October killing of dissident Saudi newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Istanbul. French President Emmanuel Macron was captured on video seemingly lecturing Mr. bin Salman, at one point being heard saying “I am worried,” “you never listen to me,” and “I am a man of my word.” Mr. Macron said the crown prince only “took note” of his concerns. British Prime Minister Theresa May also said she pressed Mr. bin Salman. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only G20 leader to raise the issue during the official session. Mr. Erdogan called Mr. bin Salman’s response – that the crime had not been proven – “unbelievable” and complained that Saudi authorities have been un co-operative. But it was not all bad for Mr. bin Salman. He was not shunned, and on the gathering’s first day, he and Russian President Vladimir Putin engaged in a hearty grip-and-grin as the two seemingly revelled in their shared status as relative outcasts.
Western leaders confronted Mr. Putin over Russia’s recent seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels and crews, but the diplomatic pressure did not seem to bring either side closer to solving the conflict. Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of being responsible for the standoff. Mr. Trump cited Russia’s actions as the reason that he cancelled a planned meeting with Mr. Putin on the side-lines of the summit. EU Council president Donald Tusk sharply criticized “Russia’s aggression” against Ukraine. Mr. Putin tried to convince Mr. Trump and the leaders of France and Germany that Russia’s actions were justified – even pulling out a piece of paper and drawing a map of the disputed area to make his point.
The final communiqué signed by all 20 member nations said 19 of them reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate accord. The only holdout was the US, which has withdrawn from the pact under Mr. Trump. Still, environmental groups praised the statement as welcome news. “That G20 leaders signed up to the Paris Agreement reaffirmed their commitment to its full implementation in the resulting communiqué is important,” the World Wildlife Fund said. “It is also a reflection of the Argentinean government rightly making climate an important topic on the agenda.” Greenpeace said that “the necessity of the US being part of the effort to fight climate change cannot be denied, but this is a demonstration that the US is still the odd one out”.
After two years of negotiations, Mr. Trump signed a revised North American trade pact with the leaders of Canada and Mexico on the side-lines of the summit. The deal is meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Mr. Trump long denigrated as a “disaster”. The new pact will not take effect unless approved by the legislatures of all three nations, and there are questions about the pact’s prospects in the US Congress, especially now that Democrats will control the House.