A pledge to promote multilateral trade and a ‘rules-based international order’ capped the two-day summitry of world leaders in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires on Saturday. Much tact and careful wording went into the preparation of a summit-concluding draft communique so as not to offend any of the participant of the G20 conference. In such huddles, care is taken to keep the trade and geostrategic rivalries among the top nations attending the conclave hidden behind a thin veneer of unity. This fact is borne out in the watered-down version of the declaration issued at the end after much haggling. It reaffirmed a promise to reform the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a pledge that takes into account the sensibilities of an erratic US president who, on his campaign trail, had made much of the perception that America was being treated unfairly on trade issues. A dinner between China’s president Xi Jinping and his US counterpart on Saturday night was the high point of Trump’s visit, especially since pulling out of a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The scheduled session with Putin was cancelled by Trump on his way to the summit, saying his decision had been based on Russia’s failure to return Ukrainian sailors and ships its forces had seized in the Sea of Azov on previous Sunday. While the conference ended without the expected fireworks on trade, climate and migration, tensions nonetheless keep smouldering between the world’s two largest economies – US and China – as they try to solve an escalating trade war that started over the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs. The Paris deal on climate, which aims to prevent the worst-case scenario of global warming, happily went unscathed as 19 out of 20 leaders signed off the agreement, with US remaining a firm and stubborn dissenter.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2018.