The German Presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) in 2017 takes place under conditions of uncertainty with regards to the outlook for both the global economy and international policy cooperation. Almost a decade after the Group was launched in its current iteration, G20 economies continue to struggle with the factors that led to the Great Recession of 2007 and losses that resulted from shortcomings in domestic and international governance are still to be recovered.
Unlike the statement made by the G20 Finance Ministers last year, which asked members to resist “all forms” of trade protectionism, the communique released at this weekend’s G20 meeting in Baden Baden contains no such statement, nor does it refer to a commitment to a multilateral trading system. While there is no need to rush to any judgement, as we wait to see the final communique from the G20 leader’s summit in July this year, it may be useful to reflect on some of the lessons learnt about the role of free trade.
According to consistent press reports, drafts of the communiqué prepared for the G20 Finance Minister and Central Bank Governers at their forthcoming meeting at Baden-Baden on 17 and 18 March 2017 have dropped clear statements rejecting protectionism and competitive devaluation of currencies. Apparently, generic language about keeping “an open and fair international trading system” is to be substituted. Does this matter?
Climate change will impact all human societies, and especially the poor. As acknowledged by the G20 agriculture ministers’ declaration in January 2017, the agricultural sector is crucial for food security, climate change adaption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managing water scarcity and human migration, and achieving peace and stability. Agricultural trade will play an important role.
Last week in an interview with Reuters, U.S. President Trump labelled the Chinese as “grand champions at manipulation of currency”, indicating he has not fully backtracked from his campaign promise to designate China as a ‘currency manipulator’ on ‘day one’ of his Presidency. The position of Washington on this topic has not exactly been crystal clear, however, with the new U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, announcing on the same day as Trump’s comment that the Treasury was in fact still going through the formal process of analysing Chinese currency practices, and that no judgements would be made prior to the completion of that process. Read the rest of this entry »