On November 30, 2018, the Valdai Discussion Club hosted an expert discussion, dedicated to the G20 summit in Argentina. The speakers were Natalia Stapran, Director, Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects, Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Alexander Losev, General Director of JSC Sputnik-Capital Management, member of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Yaroslav Lissovolik, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. The discussion was moderated by Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for development Support of the Valdai Discussion Club.
On November 30 - December 1 the G20 Summit took place in Buenos Aires. Although it was preceded by alarming developments in world politics - beginning of the trade war between the United States and China, sanctions strengthening against Russia - its main theme was still the economy. This became the main topic of expert discussion. Moderator Andrey Bystritskiy said, that for the Valdai Club interest in G20 is not abstract: the Club participates in the so-called Think 20, a meeting of think tanks from around the world engaged in preparing the next G20 summit. Until now, Russian experts did not participate actively in this process, but on December 4 they will be already present at a meeting devoted to the next summit in Tokyo.
According to Natalia Stapran, the previous G20 summit in Hamburg marked a lot of alarming signals and ended with nothing. Therefore, during its presidency, Argentina sought to get away from problematic topics - such as multilateral trade, climate issues and other sharp issues of the German summit - focusing on consensus achievement. Its most important idea is a human being as the central figure of the world economy. “The G20 is not quite an official organization and is not the result of consistent work, but it gives a slice of the current situation, and the main expression for me is “synchronization of watches”,” the expert said.
Another point on the Argentine agenda was the digitalization of the economy, but this problem, according to Alexander Losev, is unsubstantial: it does not embrace production, many moments have not yet been mechanized, and you will have to wait another 20-30 years to create a full-fledged artificial intelligence. Therefore, one should pay attention to more relevant things - the reduction of trade and the collapse of financial markets: “The world is on the verge of unpleasant events,” the speaker said, “which could turn into a global debt crisis. Since the main currency of international trade is dollar, inherently a debt paper, the more dollars come from outside, the greater will be the problem of debt in the United States itself.” The expert said that the current summit is pre-crisis, and therefore, most likely, will not solve anything: effective summits happen in a crisis time, as it was in 2008-2009.
Responding to the speeches of both experts, Bystritskiy noted, that even if the current G20 summit is unsuccessful, the very idea of such an organization seems to be very interesting and promising because the G20 brings together countries with a huge share of global GDP and can really change the situation in the economy if there are agreements at least on some issues. As for conflicts, without them there is no development.
Yaroslav Lissovolik agreed, that the idea of the G20 itself is beautiful and the group could potentially serve to reform the architecture of the world economy itself - but this does not happen for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is the contradiction between the G20 largest members. The second is problems with dispute resolution bodies: during the time that a decision is made, protectionism has already managed to bring considerable dividends to its promoters. Another point is the closeness of the group, since those countries that need integration are located outside its borders. The latter is connected with this problem: the G20 does not take into account the factor of regional groups and the regionalism strengthening, which puts into question the very mechanism of its work. A good option, according to the expert, would be the creation of the “R20” group, which would unite the largest regional structures for horizontal interaction.
Stapran said, that Japan has already published its agenda for G20-2019, and it is not too different from the current one: there are digitalization, electronic commerce, infrastructure development and the place of man in the global economy. “The G20 is too unique not to be ambitious, and its goal is to change the global financial system,” Lissovolik said. One way or another, tensions increase, and conflicts are without end. However, as Andrey Bystritskiy concluded, “the world is alarming and what will happen next is not clear, but the most true forecast is well known to everyone: tomorrow will be about the same as today.”