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News, September 2023
G-20 India Summit Admits African Union, Agrees on ME Trade Corridor, Speaks Softly on Ukraine, and Little Progress on the Environment
September 10, 2023
What Is Delhi Declaration? All You Need To Know About Consensus Document
G20 New Delhi Declaration: The declaration places emphasis on strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth.
India NewsEdited by Nikhil PandeyUpdated: September 10, 2023
New Delhi Declaration: Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the G20 Summit.
The G20 summit on Saturday adopted the Delhi Declaration under India's presidency after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said consensus had been built among member countries. PM Modi, who is chairing the G20 sessions, congratulated the Sherpas and ministers who had worked towards forging the consensus. The G20 summit is being held in the national capital for two days-September 9 and 10-and is being attended by heads of state of the world's leading economies.
What is the Delhi Declaration?
With consensus eluding on the paragraph relating to the Ukraine conflict, India circulated on Friday a draft Summit Declaration among the member countries without the paragraph on the geopolitical issue in an attempt to hammer out a positive outcome, according to news agency PTI.
The declaration places emphasis on strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth.
The reference to geopolitics is especially important given the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
What has PM Modi said about the Delhi Declaration?
The Prime Minister said while addressing the second session of the summit, "Have just got the good news that due to the hard work of our teams and your cooperation, a consensus has been reached on the New Delhi G20 Leaders Summit Declaration."
India's G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that the Delhi Declaration was historic and path-breaking and said there was 100% consensus on all developmental and geopolitical issues.
G20 Delhi Declaration Sent A "Positive Signal": China In First Comments
India on Saturday pulled off a big diplomatic win after the G20 summit held under its presidency adopted a consensus declaration overcoming major differences on the Russia-Ukraine war, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for ending the "global trust deficit".
India NewsPress Trust of IndiaUpdated: September 11, 2023
China finally broke its silence on the New Delhi G20 summit saying that the Declaration adopted by the member nations has sent a “positive signal” that the influential grouping is “working together” to tackle global challenges and promote world economic recovery.
India on Saturday pulled off a big diplomatic win after the G20 summit held under its presidency adopted a consensus declaration overcoming major differences on the Russia-Ukraine war, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for ending the "global trust deficit".
In its first comment on the outcome of the two-day summit, which concluded Sunday, the Chinese foreign ministry spoke highly of its outcome.
“The summit adopted a leaders' declaration, which reflects China's proposition and states that the G20 would act in concrete ways through partnerships, sending a positive signal of the G20 working together to tackle global challenges and promote world economic recovery and global development,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.
Asked for her comment on the summit outcome, Mao said, “In the process of preparing for this New Delhi summit, China played a constructive role and always supported the summit in attaching importance to the concerns of developing countries and reaching fruitful outcomes in support of common development.” Chinese Premier Li Qiang attended the summit, deputising for President Xi Jinping.
Asked whether China supports the absence of direct criticism of Russia in the G20 statement and whether softer language would help end the conflict in Ukraine, Mao said China's stance on the Ukraine issue is consistent and clear.
“The G20 leaders' declaration is the result of consensus reached through consultation and reflects the common understanding of all members. The New Delhi Summit reaffirms that the G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation, not a platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues.
“We always believe that the key to the final resolution of the Ukraine crisis lies in discarding the Cold War mentality, attaching importance to and respecting all sides' legitimate security concerns, and seeking a political solution through dialogue and negotiation,” she said.
The spokesperson said China will remain committed to promoting peace talks and working together with the international community for the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.
Mao said China has always attached importance to and actively supported the work of the G20 and believes that it's important for the grouping to stand in solidarity and cooperate to address various risks and challenges in the world economy and development.
“During his attendance at the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Premier Li Qiang elaborated on China's views and propositions on G20 cooperation, calling on all parties to stick to the original aspiration of solidarity and cooperation, live up to the responsibility for peace and development as required by our times, and be partners in promoting the world economic recovery, open cooperation and global sustainable development,” she said.
The G20 member countries represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.
The grouping comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union. On Saturday, the African Union was admitted as G20's permanent member.
Key takeaways from the 2023 G20 summit in New Delhi
By Sanjeev Miglani, September 10, 2023
NEW DELHI, Sept 10, 2023 (Reuters) -
Leaders of the world's 20 big economies ended a summit in the Indian capital on Sunday overcoming deep divisions over the war in Ukraine to produce a consensus document and move forward on issues such overhauling institutions like the World Bank.
They also formally admitted the African Union to the bloc to make the grouping more representative.
SOFTER LANGUAGE ON UKRAINE WAR
G20 nations agreed that states cannot grab territory by force and highlighted the suffering of the people of Ukraine, but avoided direct criticism of Russia for the war. The declaration was seen as an apparent softening from the position that the G20 took last year when it condemned Russia for the war and demanded that it withdraw from Ukraine.
Diplomats said Russia would never have accepted an outright condemnation and that it was still a successful outcome because everyone including Russia committed themselves to not seizing territory by force.
Host India along with Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, played a key role in avoiding a fracturing of the G20 over the Ukraine conflict, officials said, reflecting the growing power of the Global South developing nations in the group.
AFRICAN UNION INSIDE THE CLUB
The 55-member African Union was formally made permanent member of the G20, on par with the European Union, in order to make the grouping more representative. Until now only South Africa was a member of the G20. The entry of the AU would provide greater voice to the Global South within the G20 where the G7 countries have long played a dominant role.
The move also came after the BRICs, another group dominated by China and Russia, was expanded to include Saudi Arabia and Iran among other nations which was seen as an attempt by Beijing to make it a possible alternate to the G20.
U.S., SAUDI, INDIA JOIN HANDS FOR TRANSPORT CORRIDOR
Leaders of the United States, India and Saudi Arabia among others announced plans to set up rail and ports links between the Middle East and South Asia and eventually to Europe which U.S. President Joe Biden said was a "real big deal."
The Biden administration is seeking to counter China's Belt and Road push on global infrastructure by pitching Washington as an alternative partner and investor for developing countries at the G20 grouping.
But there were no details about financing or a time frame for the project that involved laying down railway lines in the Middle East and then connecting them to India by port.
INCREMENTAL PROGRESS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The G20 leaders agreed to pursue tripling renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 and accepted the need to phase-down unabated coal power, but stopped short of setting major climate goals.
The group did not provide any plan to amend existing policies and targets in order to achieve the target of ramping of renewables. It also said $4 trillion a year would be needed to pay for a green energy transition but did not lay out any pathway to it.
The deliberations of the G20 were being closely watched ahead of the COP28 U.N climate summit in the United Arab Emirates later this year.
MODI BOOSTS STANDING AS INDIA'S BIG MOMENT ARRIVES
For Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leadership of the G20 has been a year-long opportunity to showcase India as an influential diplomatic and economic power, and drive investment and trade flows into the world's most populous country.
It has also provided him a platform to boost his standing at home as he seeks a third term in office in elections in the next several months. Modi's image has been on G20 billboards across the capital and in the vast and swanky new conference venue. To his supporters the successful outcome of the summit showed India's big moment had arrived.
Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Kim CoghillKey takeaways from the 2023 G20 summit in New Delhi | Reuters
Experts react: Did India’s G20 just crack the code for diplomatic consensus?
By Atlantic Council experts
September 10, 2023
Last month, India successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon. This weekend, at a futuristic convention center in New Delhi that looks like a flying saucer, another landmark landing was achieved. The Group of Twenty (G20) approved an eighty-three-paragraph leaders’ declaration, covering issues ranging from plastic pollution to terrorism. While consensus among the world’s wealthiest countries is always difficult—and the absence of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladmir Putin lowered expectations further—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi guided home the declaration, which welcomed the African Union as a new member to the group, among other important points.
Below, Atlantic Council experts explore the communiqué and other milestones from the G20 Summit, along with the new diplomatic frontiers that lie ahead.
India forges a new model of inclusive diplomacy
In the lead-up to the 2023 G20 Summit, there was much focus on Putin and Xi choosing not to attend the meeting. Observers believed that their absence was a direct affront to India and would ultimately overshadow India’s presidency and its G20 objectives. But as the summit came to an end, it was clear that India’s objectives were not derailed, and three key themes emerged: consensus, inclusiveness, solutions.
Consensus: Russia’s war in Ukraine loomed throughout India’s presidency and had divided G20 countries. It was unclear if and how the conflict would be addressed and whether it would prevent the agreement of a final G20 communiqué. However, after three hundred bilateral meetings, two hundred hours of negotiations, and fifteen drafts, Modi and his team were able to bring consensus on the Russia-Ukraine paragraphs in the final G20 communiqué.
Inclusiveness: As part of India’s positioning to be the voice of the Global South, India shepherded the African Union’s inclusion as a permanent member of the G20. India also pushed for, and countries agreed to, major reforms at global institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Solutions: India successfully promoted its Digital Public Infrastructure plan as an exportable tech solution for financial inclusion. While it’s unclear whether other countries are capable of replicating India’s digital plan, it has found a niche that goes above and beyond simple capital financing.
With more than two hundred meetings in over sixty Indian cities, Indian officials were intent to make their presidency about representing marginalized voices and the Global South. While India was disappointed not to have Putin and Xi present, this G20 Summit was not about how diplomacy has been done, but rather how diplomacy can be done. In the end, India’s diplomacy demonstrated its ability to take on current geopolitical disagreements and represent those countries who have felt marginalized for decades.
—Kapil Sharma is the senior director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.
Modi cemented his leadership of the Global South, while Xi ‘contained’ himself
This year’s G20 summit will be remembered not for who was there and what they did, but for who wasn’t: The absence of Xi was the big story and will cast the longest shadow over world affairs. Xi’s decision not to attend was likely an attempt to discredit the G20 as a forum for international cooperation and represents his intensifying opposition to the established world order and resistance to multilateral cooperation. Setting Xi’s G20 snub next to his appearance at the August summit of the BRICS economic grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, and the planning of the third Belt and Road Forum in October, suggests that he intends to promote alternative and competing organizations that he can more easily manipulate or control to serve China’s global interests.
This G20 also represents an acceleration in the contest between China and other major powers for influence in the Global South. Modi proved that he is becoming a more important figure in the Global South and a counterweight to Xi within the developing world. While Xi apparently plans to rally the developing world in support of China’s anti-American agenda, Modi is offering an alternative vision of North-South relations that is focused on enhancing the voice of developing countries in global governance while at the same time cooperating—rather than confronting—the West. Modi’s advocacy of G20 membership for the African Union was a wise geopolitical maneuver that makes the forum even more inclusive.
In that way, Xi turned out to be the biggest loser of the summit. By vacating the scene, he allowed Modi and Biden to promote their own views and influence. Rather than Xi’s snub spoiling the summit, the G20 went on without him. Chinese leaders seem to fear being “contained” by the United States and its partners; with his withdrawal, Xi is doing a pretty good job of containing himself.
The summit, therefore, highlighted China’s growing isolation from most of the world’s major powers. In that way, it could also be a worrisome sign that international cooperation on key issues such as climate change could become even more challenging.
—Michael Schuman is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub and a contributing writer for the Atlantic magazine.
As it joins the G20, the African Union could accelerate its own reforms
The first decision of the G20 Summit held in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Modi was to admit the African Union (AU) as a member of the group. For India, it is a success: The country has proved its ability to promote the so-called Global South at the highest level. After almost a decade of advocacy, the AU, with its 1.4 billion people and three-trillion-dollar gross domestic product, will be seated at the same table as another regional organization, the European Union, and the world’s richest countries.
According to the G20 communiqué released by India: “We welcome the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 and strongly believe that inclusion of the African Union into the G20 will significantly contribute to addressing the global challenges of our time.”
Bola Tinubu, Cyril Ramaphosa, and William Ruto—the presidents of the leading African economies, Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya—as well as the current chairman of the African Union (Comoros President Azali Assoumani), were present for this “historic moment,” as Senegal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs put it. “Congratulations to all of Africa!” added Senegalese President Macky Sall, who chaired the African Union in 2022 and has never stopped being a vibrant advocate of AU integration with other multilateral institutions.
Until now, only South Africa, a permanent member of the club, could represent the continent, and the African Union was only invited as a guest. Africa’s entry into the G20 is a true success, coming a few days after the enlargement of the BRICS group. Given their strong presence in both the BRICS and the G20, Africans are embracing their culture of geopolitical neutrality that they have been advocating for in recent years, while also reaching a central position in multilateral discussions.
As a full member, the African Union will weigh in on G20 commitments and prioritize its primary interests, such as debt restructuring, the reform of the international financial architecture, and climate funding—as long as African countries, like European countries, overcome their divisions. It may take a stronger AU Commission to harmonize African countries’ various positions. AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki should be able to be a credible interlocutor for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The necessity to bring a more unified African voice in these international gatherings could accelerate African integration and stronger reforms of the African Union as the organization celebrates its twentieth birthday. The AU is still too dependent on foreign support, which makes up 65 percent of its budget. How can it occupy the G20 seat and make its own choices without budgetary sovereignty? The G20 is only a step, as Africans know that only a seat at the United Nations Security Council will position their continent to wield true political sovereignty. The charge is historic for African Union leaders. But anything less would do a disservice to a continent that, by 2050, will have 2.5 billion citizens emerging on the world stage.
—Rama Yade is senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and senior fellow for the Europe Center.
Don’t expect Xi to snub the G20 again next year
The G20 proved its relevance and resilience this weekend. From World Bank reform to adding the African Union as a member to climate commitments, the group made progress on the issues it laid out over one year ago. US President Joe Biden stepped into the void left by Xi and secured new infrastructure deals aimed at connecting India, the Middle East, and Europe. The United States was even awarded the 2026 G20 presidency, reportedly over China’s objections.
But to be truly successful long-term, the question of what China wants from the G20 will have to be answered. In the wake of Xi’s decision to skip India’s G20 Summit (the first ever no-show from a Chinese leader), there’s speculation about what China’s engagement will be like for Brazil’s G20 presidency year—which officially begins Monday.
But it’s actually unlikely Xi will skip next year’s leaders summit. Why? Look at the numbers:
No one knows quite why Xi didn’t show in India. It could be the need to be seen focusing on domestic problems, or China-India rivalry, or a broader signal about how China wants multilateralism to work after BRICS expansion. But one thing is clear: Xi didn’t think there was a price to pay for missing the meeting.
Next year, when Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva convenes world leaders, Xi may not be able to make the same calculation.
—Josh Lipsky is the senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center.
New rail plans mark the end of a tumultuous US-Saudi period
This weekend saw the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)—a ship-to-rail transit network that will connect India and Europe through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel. The plan is not just a win for US allies in Europe, for the Middle East, and for India. It also provides the most concrete effort to date by the West to counterbalance China’s economic investments in the Gulf.
Those in the region who remain concerned about the United States’ commitment to the Middle East may minimize the impact of such an agreement; perceptions can be harder to change than reality. If implemented fully in the coming years, however, IMEC has the potential to shift both.
It also should be seen as unofficially marking the end of one of the more tumultuous periods in US-Saudi relations since September 11, 2001. Just over a year ago, it was not clear that the relationship between Washington and Riyadh would improve much before the end of US President Joe Biden’s term, and the July 2022 fist bump between Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did little to calm tensions. Three months later, in October, relations appeared to get worse upon Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut oil output ahead of the US midterm elections.
But as engagement between Riyadh and Beijing heated up, and as Saudi Arabia sought to calm tensions with Iran to try to ensure its Vision 2030 would not be undermined by security threats, new US efforts to engage Saudi leaders also emerged. Most prominently, efforts toward a deal that would result in Saudi-Israeli normalization continued. That endeavor and a bevy of behind-the-scenes bilateral tracks, on issues such as 6G networks and space exploration, kept the relationship moving forward, albeit slowly.
The US strategic focus will remain on China and on Russia’s war in Ukraine. But the Biden administration clearly, and rightly, recognizes that the Middle East cannot be geographically wished away; this is reflected not only by IMEC but also, for example, by additional efforts to negotiate a deal to work with Saudi Arabia to secure lithium and other metals in Africa. The result may be a more realpolitik approach to the region than Biden promised when he campaigned in 2020. But it’s also one far more likely to ensure the United States’ economic and national security interests in the years to come.
—Jonathan Panikoff is the director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Program.
Modi delivers useful, if not spectacular, results
The 2023 G20 Summit, without Xi and Putin, has delivered practically everything Modi had wanted, with many compromises. Those include a consensus declaration (by not mentioning Russia in the section about the war in Ukraine), the admission of the African Union as a permanent member (a good step forward), continued efforts to deal with climate change (but no hard commitments in phasing out fossil fuels), support for climate financing to assist developing countries (but no hard targets except extending the 2010 pledges by developed countries to transfer $100 billion a year to developing countries to 2025).
The G20 also took on reforms to the multilateral development banks (MDB) to include climate financing in their core missions (no capital increases now but optimizing the MDB balance sheets so they can lend $200 billion more over the next decade) and support for the improvement of the Common Framework for Debt Treatment to facilitate the restructuring of low-income countries’ debt. But the Common Framework remains vague without a roadmap specifying a sequence and timeline of steps to be taken once a debtor country asks for a restructuring. In addition, the group adopted several concrete and potentially helpful initiatives such as mapping the global value chain to help countries identify risks, the digitalization of trade documents to expedite trade transactions, and the development of public digital infrastructures to promote financial inclusion and productivity. Also notable is the launch of an India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor connected by railways and ports—in direct competition with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Overall, the outcomes of the G20 Summit will bolster India’s claim to be the voice of the Global South—being able to articulate the demands of developing countries and to engage in negotiations with developed countries to produce useful, if not spectacular, results. This is a good template for Brazil to take up the G20 presidency in 2024 and South Africa in 2025.
—Hung Tran is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center, a former executive managing director at the Institute of International Finance, and a former deputy director at the International Monetary Fund.
The G20 communiqué was ambitious, but had a few major holes
With expectations high, the G20 delivered a comprehensive communiqué with wide-ranging, ambitious commitments from digital infrastructure to debt treatments, climate finance to cultural preservation. The outcome is so broad that what is not included could be seen as more notable than what is—though certain detailed elements such as care infrastructure for women’s economic empowerment and the creation of an international reference classification of skills and qualifications did not go unseen.
For example, despite a focus on poverty reduction, inclusive growth, and jobs, the communiqué has no mention of informal work, which accounts for a significant share of employment in lower- and middle-income countries—especially among women, migrants, and marginalized populations. Similarly, the communiqué devotes ample attention toward reducing inequality generally and improving the economic and social wellbeing of women and girls, but is devoid of concrete discussion of generational demographic dynamics of older persons and youth who account for the majority of populations. This omission comes even as the G20 is expanding to include the African Union, representing the youngest continent where more than 60 percent of the population is under the age of twenty-five. By 2035 there will be more young Africans entering the workforce annually than in the rest of the world combined.
The addition of the African Union is nonetheless significant, bringing more voice from and relevance to the Global South, especially as the BRICS grouping expands in an effort to counter ‘Western’ economic dominance and bring more balance to the international order. Achieving—or even getting closer to—the United Nations sustainable development goals, inclusive prosperity, and peace will require inclusive governance at all levels, and India’s G20 took many welcome if not high-level steps in this direction. Whether we see real action to reach the destination remains to be seen as the conversation moves to the United Nations General Assembly and the G20 baton passes to Brazil.
—Nicole Goldin is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center and global head, inclusive economic growth at Abt Associates.
G20 leaders should have called out Russia for global food and energy insecurity
The G20 leaders united around the importance of addressing food and energy insecurity as part of a broader fight against poverty in their declaration coming out of the summit in New Delhi. But no consensus was reached in calling out Russia’s outsized role in exacerbating these global challenges—derailing energy markets and triggering food insecurity to reach its genocidal agenda for Ukraine. This glaring gap in the statement is a missed opportunity to address Putin’s evident intention to cause economic and social harm to communities around the world. Europe has spent more than a trillion dollars addressing the energy crisis, money which should have gone to climate action at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, developing nations were outcompeted for energy supplies on the global market thanks to artificial supply shortages orchestrated by Moscow. Moreover, Russia’s sabotage of Ukraine’s agricultural exports will continue impacting access and affordability of food for millions, spreading famine in the most vulnerable communities. These developments are just the tip of the iceberg in the total bill of Moscow’s atrocities. Weak political statements, such as the G20 leaders’ declaration, embolden bad actors to continue pursuing egoistic geopolitical agendas at cost of the world’s poorest.
—Olga Khakova is the deputy director for European energy security at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.
Coal is the greater climate problem, but hydrogen takes center stage
Coal is a far dirtier and emissions-intensive fuel than oil or natural gas and accounted for approximately 44 percent of global emissions from fuel combustion in 2021. One might therefore anticipate that the official communiqué from the G20 convening would discuss coal at length. One would be wrong.
Coal remains too politically sensitive for the G20 to come to a consensus. While coal burn is widely acknowledged as a major contributor to climate change, as well as a cause of certain cancers and asthma, it is also cheap, reliable, and available. Consequently, many countries regard coal as a necessary evil for their energy mix.
The G20 statement’s only mention of coal states that it “recognizes the importance . . . [of] accelerating efforts towards phasedown of unabated coal power, in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards just transitions.”
The G20’s call for a “phasedown” of coal—versus a more aggressive “phase out”—is notable and a continuation of previous climate statements, including at the twenty-sixth United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit in 2021.
Hydrogen earned an entire section in the G20 statement, but its prominence in the communiqué outstrips its importance in fighting climate change. Let’s be clear: Hydrogen is a vital decarbonization technology with many viable use cases, including for the refining sector, fertilizers, steelmaking, shipping, inter-seasonal electricity storage, and more. World leaders need to be talking about hydrogen and other decarbonization pathways. Yet hydrogen also has several limitations, while scarce decarbonization resources are often better deployed in removing coal and greening the electricity grid. That is especially true for China, which accounts for more than half of world coal consumption.
While energy access is undeniably critical for combatting energy and economic poverty, future generations will not be pleased with the G20’s failure to address coal more systematically.
—Joseph Webster is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center, where he leads the center’s efforts on Chinese energy security, offshore wind, and hydrogen.
India pulled off a well-managed G20 that found a way forward on trade
While the G20 is not renowned for transformational outcomes, except when the occasional global economic meltdown occurs, it is the crucial forum for annual engagement among the world’s top economies. In the run-up to the leaders’ meeting, it appeared that the hoopla of the August 22-24 BRICS Summit might have stolen the show already, but India and Modi pulled off an extremely well-managed series of ministerials, working group meetings, and private sector engagements that deserve more attention.
The results on trade were respectable but limited. The consensus on World Trade Organization (WTO) reform is familiar and will have virtually no impact on what happens in Geneva. Beyond this, the trade ministers highlighted the importance of global value chains, but it is difficult to see real progress when one group aims to shift value chains away from a fellow G20 member (China). Transparency is welcome in assistance and facilitation programs for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises, but there are no game-changer results in this area. However, the outcomes related to digitalization of trade-related documents could be important.
Trade facilitation and the digitalization of trade documents and importing and exporting procedures have been one of the few bright spots in the deteriorating environment of trade relations and trade negotiations for several years now. In 2014, WTO members concluded an historic agreement—the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The initiative pushed by India on digitalization builds on the WTO agreement and seeks to take it forward in collaborative ways. As the world’s major economies continue to fragment and regroup in their trade relationships, G20 efforts on trade facilitation show that there still can be common ground.
—Mark Linscott is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and former assistant US trade representative for South and Central Asian Affairs.
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