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Shaping Up as a Small Success at G20 Buenos Aires 2018

John Kirton, Director, G20 Research Group
December 1, 2018

As the second day of the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires Summit got underway, a few signs suggested that it was shaping up to be at least a small success.

The leaders' sherpas finally managed to produce draft communiqué to recommend to their leaders for them to present at the end of their summit that afternoon (Stauffer and Squires 2018). It contained a passage calling for the reform of the World Trade Organization, after the United States had ended its resistance the day before. On the second, even more divisive, key issue — of climate change — the draft reportedly would contain a reference that showed "no backtracking" from the language at the G20's Hamburg Summit in July 2017 (Garibian 2018). The third divisive issue, that of migration and refugees, would be dealt with by saying almost nothing about the subject in the communiqué.

Yet it remained for the leaders themselves to approve their sherpas' draft, amid or after their morning working session on sustainable development, climate sustainability and climate change, and their working lunch on the host's top-tier priorities of infrastructure and food security, as well as food security. During the former they would also address reducing inequality and reviewing progress toward global sustainable development in accordance with the 2030 Agenda. The latter session would include connectivity, cleaner, more flexible and transparent energy systems and agricultural productivity to meet the dietary needs of the world's growing future population.

Moreover, most would await the outcome of the Saturday evening bilateral dinner between U.S. president Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping to see if they would call a truce in their escalating trade war. Trumps latest remarks suggested that that such a truce was possible. But even then it was likely to only suspend, rather than stop their trade war.

Trump's already gloomy mood was further darkened by the public statement of Russian president Vladimir Putin's spokesperson, confirming that Trump had indeed had business deals in Moscow and conversations with Russian representatives that Trump had previously denied.

British prime minister Theresa May was similarly blindsided by the sudden resignation of her minister for science and universities, who said he could not support her Brexit deal with the European Union stick. This added to Trump's statement just before that the deal would make it difficult for the United States to have a trade deal or even trading relationship with the United Kingdom. May's initiative in raising the issue of human rights and the war in Yemen in her bilateral meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was unlikely to restore her reputation or political standing back in the United Kingdom and the Buenos Aires Summit itself.


Garibian, Pablo (2018), "Trump, China's Xi poised for high-stakes summit over trade," Reuters December 1. https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN1O031C-OCATP

Stauffer, Caroline and Scott Squires (2018), Europeans say G20 members agree to reform WTO in draft communiqué," Reuters December 1. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-g20-argentina-communique/europeans-say-g20-members-agree-to-reform-wto-in-draft-communique-idUKKCN1O03AD

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