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Prospects for the July 2022 Meeting of G20 Foreign Ministers in Bali

John Kirton,
Director, G20 Research Group, July 5, 2022

The G20 Foreign Ministers' meeting, taking place in Bali, Indonesia, on July 7–8, 2022, is an important event. It is the first G20 ministerial meeting under the Indonesian presidency that will focus directly on security, and thus the highly divisive issue of G20 members' response to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

They will then decide what bilateral visits to hold with whom on the way to and from the summit, at the summit site itself, and whether to walk or listen when Russia's foreign minister, the veteran Sergey Lavrov speaks.

Thus far, enroute bilaterals are scheduled for the US-Thailand, Korea-Singapore (with Myanmar be on the agenda) and Russia-Vietnam.

Onsite bilaterals have been announced for the US-China, US-Indonesia, and perhaps China-Australia, but none with Lavrov yet.

No G7 or other member's foreign minister has said they will walk out when Lavrov speaks, as the finance ministers and central bank governors of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia (but not Japan) did at their meeting in Washington in April.

There is a good reason for their foreign minister colleagues to stay at the table this time, to discuss the broad range of critical issues on the agenda. Those issues are led by the war in Ukraine, energy and food security, as priorities. Then come the resulting inflation, tariffs, US-China conflict over Taiwan, and, for the United States, climate change, health and narcotics.

On the most divisive issue – Russia's invasion of Ukraine – another walk-out by the finance ministers and central bankers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, dealing with the core reason the G20 was created in 1999, in the heart of the US capital almost three months ago, will have a diminishing value in signalling their dislike of Russia's actions, especially with a repetition of this performative act in the heart of the global South, where their narrative is far less appealing than it is in the North. Better to stay at the table, listen to what Lavrov says, and then vigorously refute his claims and state the factual western narrative, in ways that appeal to the undecided or wavering global South at the G20 table and beyond.

In the recent past, G20 foreign ministers have met to address, and agree on, other critical security issues on which leading members have differed. On October 12, 2021, G20 leaders dealt with Afghanistan, where a traumatized United States took a diametrically opposed path to what China did.

Moreover, G20 foreign ministers have had a long and very recent history of effectively dealing with food security. On June 19, 2021, G20 foreign and development ministers ended their meeting with a communiqué containing 15 commitments, which included 11 on food security, the central crisis for many in the global South and for many poor people in an inflationary North today.

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John KirtonJohn Kirton is director of the G20 Research Group, G7 Research Group and Global Health Diplomacy Program and co-director of the BRICS Research Group, all based at the University of Toronto. A professor emeritus of political science, he researches global governance and Canadian foreign policy. His most recent books include Reconfiguring the Global Governance of Climate Change, with Ella Kokotsis and Brittaney Warren (Routledge, 2022), Accountability for Effectiveness in Global Governance, co-edited with Marina Larionova (Routledge 2018), China's G20 Leadership (Routledge, 2016), G20 Governance for a Globalized World (Ashgate, 2012) and (with Ella Kokotsis), The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Leadership (Ashgate, 2015), as well as The G8-G20 Relationship in Global Governance, co-edited with Marina Larionova (Ashgate, 2015). Kirton is also co-editor with Madeline Koch of several publications on the G20, the G7 and global health governance, including G20 Italy: The 2021 Rome Summit and G7 Germany: The 2022 Elmau Summit, and, with the support of the World Health Organization, Health: A Political Choice — Solidarity, Science, Solutions, published by GT Media and the Global Governance Project.