At first glance, the communiqué of the G20’s Hamburg Summit is an ordinary piece of international diplomacy. However, as is often the case, context is key to assess its real importance. Two context factors defined this year’s negotiations of G20 leaders in the exhibition halls in the city center of Hamburg. Within the negotiation room, an unruly US president questioned a number of common positions that had already been adopted by the G20 in previous years.
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.