G20 Hamburg Summit: a Bad Peace is Better Than a Good Quarrel

Unexpected findings by summit communique results

A comprehensive assessment of the G20 Hamburg Summit outcome is objectively difficult. It is obvious that the Group of Twenty is in its new development cycle, which is not associated with the mobilization of the world community to fight the crisis or its consequences (growth of the world economy is gaining momentum). Now on the agenda is ensuring the unity of the positions of member countries in the search for new priorities of G20 activities in order to maintain the legitimacy of this informal from a legal point of view forum as a central element of today's system of global governance of the world economy.

The underestimation of the transitional moment in G20 activities could be costly to the Group of Twenty and all of its members. In November-December 2016, when summit’s agenda formed, it was possible to foresee changes in American foreign economic policy related to pre-election promises of new U.S. President Donald Trump.

The disagreements between the USA and Germany can be seen through the prism of the one indicator – the balance of foreign trade. Among the Group of Twenty, Washington and Berlin are on the different parties of “barricades”: Germany has the highest surplus and stands for full maintenance of free trade, while the U.S. is characterized by the maximum deficit that involves increasing protectionist sentiment in the country.

In this situation, the uncompromising German position was doomed to failure. A. Merkel’s attempt to oppose the rest of the countries of “Twenty” to D. Trump’s to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement has made a lot of noise. The consequences of this straightforward strategy became evident immediately. In particular, Turkey stated about a possible refusal to ratify the Paris agreement, and the mass media also reported about the fluctuations on this issue among the other participating countries (Saudi Arabia and Indonesia). As a result, forum participants had to urgently seek mutually acceptable formulations.

At the same time, the main problem faced by the Group of Twenty was resolved behind the scenes, a compromise in relation to the final communiqué has been achieved, and Merkel had the opportunity to declare the success of the summit. However, the “passions” rose during the discussions were visible at the very beginning of the agreed document. “Together we can achieve more than acting alone,” – stated in the first paragraph of the final communiqué.

The message about the risks of globalization and the need for their elimination is also interesting. In particular, international institutions (WTO, IMF, World Bank, OECD) was instructed to study the benefits of free markets in goods and capital, which is also a continuation of their previous joint statements on the importance of open trade relations for ensuring global growth.

It is noteworthy that the text of the communique in order to reach a mutual compromise included the “excess capacities” that reflect primarily the interests of the United States, which considered the possibility of introducing in the near future unilateral restrictive measures against imports of steel in connection with its overproduction in the world and significant pressure on local producers from foreign competitors. Thus, Berlin as G20 Chairman, on the one hand, made a certain concession to Washington, on the other – it tried to postpone this decision of the American authorities for several months and put the discussions in a multilateral format. The outcome document also contains a paragraph on the need to maintain representativeness in the course of further reform of the IMF, largely repeating the statement of the leaders of the “Five”, made at Hamburg summit.

As for those issues that originally were not a subject of controversy (development of the digital economy, employment, sustainability of the global financial system, tax cooperation, financial regulation, health care, sustainable development, expanding cooperation with African countries), these issues only confirmed the common positions of G20 member countries.

We hope that Argentina as the next G20 Chairman will be able to avoid such problems and at the same time will take into account the wish of the representatives of the developing economies on the need for greater involvement of G20 in such issues as macroeconomic policy coordination, the non-discriminatory world trading system, completion of the current cycle of reforms in the IMF and the World Bank, timely achievement of sustainable development goals, as well as, which is equally important, implementation of commitments by all member countries of the “Group of Twenty”.

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