Outcome of G20 Summit in Hamburg

Dhaka,  Thu,  24 August 2017
Published : 09 Jul 2017, 20:46:33

Outcome of G20 Summit in Hamburg

It must have been a tortuous exercise for the Group of Twenty (G20), representing the leaders of the world's leading economies embracing both developed and developing ones, to come out finally with a communiqué, though couched more in sophistry and less in substance, at the close of their annual summit this year in Germany's Hamburg. Amid deep divisions particularly between the US and other major participating member countries and also large protests near its venue that caused the largest deployment of the law enforcing personnel in Hamburg's history, the backdrop to the summit could hardly be considered propitious. Rather, it provided an irritable syndrome of many a faultline, unfolding and developing on some key aspects of multilateralism concerning trade, climate change-related issues, migration, security etc. That a  communiqué could finally be adopted in Hamburg would thus be considered a redeeming feature of the summit under the given circumstances.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel deserves kudos for all that has, at last, emerged out of the Hamburg summit. She and German officials have put in extra-ordinary efforts to produce a 'unanimous' declaration that is otherwise broad enough to reflect some semblance of agreement on some issues of wider concern. The summit has concluded with "some progress on financial stability issues like debt, transparency and taxes", implying the need for making concerted efforts to tackle corruption, tax evasion and avoidance. On such counts, specific actions, however, are of more importance than general promises. This is particularly so for the developing countries that are estimated to be losing annually at least $1.0 trillion because of related malpractices. The money involved here flows mostly to the developed countries or other 'safe havens' through which it is routed elsewhere. Unless tougher actions come from G20 countries, the low income ones will continue to experience capital flight and lose financial resources that are critically needed for eradicating poverty, supporting economic growth and thus achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

Meanwhile, the adoption of the G20 Hamburg Action Plan and the Group's 'expressed' support for the Operational Guidelines for Sustainable Financing are welcome; such moves are purported to encouraging member-countries of the G20 "to pass stronger regulations" on both responsible lending and borrowing. Likewise, the initiative for launching a $325m fund to support female entrepreneurship in developing countries, as was announced by the G20, together with the World Bank, in Hamburg last Saturday, is a positive one. Hopefully, actions will now follow to operationalise it at the earliest.     

However, the Hamburg Summit of G20 leaders has left the key issues about the future of rule-based multilateral trade, open economy, course and direction of globalisation etc., largely unaddressed for all practical purposes. Neither has there been any substantive change in the US policy on climate change, though 19 other G20 countries have reiterated their commitment to Paris Climate deal, pledging to fully implement it in an "irreversible" way. There have been tough talks in Hamburg on trade, climate change as well as migration but no meaningful compromises on such issues have thus emerged. Rather the 'discords' here have amply been evident. Matters have deteriorated most particularly in the area of trade with vagueness persisting about where the line can clearly be drawn between what constitutes 'free trade' and what connotes 'fair trade'. The coming days will therefore be quite challenging for all countries, amid much uncertainties lingering over many existing contentious issues and still-unfolding ones. 

Yet then, it would be quite unfair to discount the outcome of this year's G20 Summit in Hamburg, considering its contextual difficulties at a time when the post-World War-II global order is at a crossroads. Its outcome should rather be considered positively, in view of some sort of unity that is reflected in its declaration, notwithstanding its some 'face-saving' traits. If it succeeds to leave some favourable impact on improving the global political atmosphere, facilitated by a series of bilateral meetings between the leaders of the G20 on the fringes of the summit, that would be an auspicious development by itself.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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