From a historical point of view, the G20 Summit in Hamburg is a run-of-the-mill and even unsuccessful event, says Valdai Club Program Director Oleg Barabanov. What caused the most interest was not the summit itself but some of the bilateral or multilateral meetings on the sidelines, including the first Putin-Trump meeting.
The violent protests against the Hamburg summit were not characteristic of earlier G20 summits. “Although the protests were clearly linked to the upcoming election in Germany, the G20 as an institution unfortunately failed to live up to expectations,” Oleg Barabanov said in an interview with ru.valdaiclub.com.
In the past anti-globalization protests were directed against other international organizations, such as NATO, accused of disregarding the true interests of the world community. The G20 was originally conceived as a step toward meeting the just demands of world public opinion. It comprised not only the G8 but also the biggest countries from various parts of the world,” he said.
One of the ideas expressed on the sidelines of some of the first G20 summits was to reform the IMF and redistribute IMF country quotas. However, this did not happen. “The leading Western countries’ reluctance to share control over world trade and world finances led to the G20 summits growing increasingly routine and insignificant,” he said.
The G-20 Summit: Afterword
This was an unusual G-20 summit inasmuch as one member—the United States—for the first time rejected some basic premises of the organization, namely the commitment to globalization, free trade and to combat climate change. In the end, the final communique reflected a line-up of 19 +1 on climate issues, with the U.S. as the outlier because of President Trump’s commitment to promote hydrocarbons. Nevertheless, the United States and the rest of the G-8 agreed that steps should be taken to reduce some trade imbalances. Yet most G-20 members are wary of the protectionist instincts of the new U.S. president, especially on steel production and exports.
Even though the Hamburg Summit agenda included a number of important issues – fighting tax evasion, the Paris Agreement on climate, free trade, etc. – no specific solutions were suggested. “The summit was ‘toothless.’ Certainly, a communique was approved that said the parties were in favor of the good things and against the bad things, but the participants failed to contain the trend toward economic nationalism and protectionism, primarily associated with Donald Trump,” he said.
According to Mr. Barabanov, the BRICS working meeting, held on the sidelines of the summit, was of much political importance, demonstrating as it did that the organization was still consolidated and capable of reflecting the interests of the developing states. He stressed the importance of the fact that the meeting took place after the Russian-Chinese talks in Moscow on the eve of the G20 Summit. Russia and China compared the notes and came up with coordinated statements on a number of critical issues. They also coordinated some points of economic cooperation. “Now we can safely state that China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, that has been actively supported by Russia and many other countries in the region, is the BRICS economic engine,” he said in conclusion.