General expectations

Friday, 2019-06-28 15:41:42
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Family photo session for leaders and attendees at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - Leaders of the Group of Twenty (G20) big economies, together with important guests and international organisations, arrived in Osaka, Japan, for a summit on June 28. The summit is expected to contribute to affirming the importance of free and fair trade, as well as the promotion of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform process.

This year’s G20 summit takes place in the context of slow growth of the world economy with potential risks of instability due to trade disputes, including the US-China trade tensions. Trade protective measures are tending to increase and are the subject of this year's summit agenda. In addition, the geopolitical competition between big countries and organisations in the world poses significant challenges for G20 countries, which are considered a locomotive of the world economy. Right from the ministerial level meeting earlier this year, the G20 broadcast instable signals of commitment to fight against trade protection. At the 2018 Summit, which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, G20 countries were also unable to make a commitment against protectionism, when Washington voiced its objections to any such commitment.

WTO reform is also one of the themes that govern this year's agenda of the G20 Summit. Previously, at the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy in June 2019, G20 members for the first time mentioned the issue of reforming the dispute settlement system in the world’s largest multilateral trade organisation. As the host of the G20 Summit, Japan made reform proposals that include holding regular dialogue between WTO members and the Appellate Body members and ensuring that decisions of other dispute settlement bodies will not be bound by the Appellate Body ruling. The difference in opinion between G20 members in terms of tenure, appointment or re-appointment of members of the Appellate Body made it difficult for the G20 to draft a joint document.

However, stemming from the premise at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires in 2018, which stressed that international trade and investment continue to be important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development, the G20 Summit in Osaka is expected to mark a step forward in further defining specific priorities for reforms, which may include improving dispute settlement mechanisms, as well as greater transparency.

Originally a pure forum for world and regional economic, trade and financial issues, in recent years the G20 Summit has also become a place to discuss the core issues of world politics. Core issues for this year’s summit include promoting economic growth and reducing imbalance, developing infrastructure, and improving the healthcare system for people in addition to global issues such as climate change, plastic waste, digital economy and population challenges, among others.

Along with the global-issues discussion programme, the summit in Osaka also attracted the attention of the international community with its sideline events and activities. One of the focal points is the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the current and threatened US-China tariffs could cut 2020 global gross domestic product by 0.5%, or about US$455 billion . The world has long been looking forward to positive changes that can "ease" the escalating tensions between the world's two leading economies.

In the context of multiple and complex challenges facing the world economy, finding a common voice among G20 economies is no small challenge. Therefore, this summit is an opportunity for G20 economies to assert their responsibilities and roles as leading economies on a global scale, meeting the general expectations of the world.