Globalists on Defense and Nationalists on Offense at G20


Each of the annual G20 summits is unique in its own way. Each summit registers in various forms the current alignment of forces in the world and the level of consensus between the leading players on the most urgent global issues. Leaving aside the numerous bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the main event, including the long-awaited first meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, the main intrigue in Hamburg was the confrontation between the globalists, who were on defense, and the nationalists, who were on offense.

Importantly, the intrigue began not on July 7 in Hamburg but several days before in Berlin and Warsaw. Xi Jinping’s official visit to Berlin was obviously designed to confirm the durability of the Chinese-German “globalist axis.” This durability was on full display, at least at the political level. Trump’s stopover in contrarian Warsaw on the way to Hamburg was hardly accidental. The US president was sending a clear signal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel as regards US policy in Europe – when one door shuts, another opens. Considering the many complications in relations between Warsaw and Berlin at the moment, this signal did not leave any room for ambiguity or doubt regarding the seriousness of US intentions.

I don’t think the two-day discussions in Hamburg produced a clear winner in US-German confrontation. On the one hand, Donald Trump did not make any concessions to the “globalists.” As for climate change, the participants had to state in the final communique that they “take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris agreement.”

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To all intents and purposes, the wording on the G20’s unchanging determination to liberalize world trade and economic ties was also a compromise: although its members will “fight protectionism” they recognize the role of “legitimate trade defense instruments in this regard.”

That said, it is hard to shake the impression that during the discussions in Hamburg Trump often found himself in a position of “splendid isolation.” It does not follow from the statements, interviews and comments of the participants that the combative US president managed to take the initiative and resolutely defeat the globalists. Although there are wavering members and even potential defectors in the globalist camp, the world political elite is obviously reluctant to yield its habitual positions for the time being. In all likelihood, it still hopes to “tame” or “curb” the obstinate Trump.

So, it probably would be fair to look at the Hamburg summit as tentative first bout, with both sides testing and probing the other. The main battles between the globalists and nationalists are still ahead. Regrettably, for the time being the G20 has failed to fulfill its main task – to create conditions for the long-term stable growth of the world economy. Apparently, today we are even further from success than a year or two ago. This means that we will all have to live with highly volatile world trade and finance, with all the ensuing risks and difficulties. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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