The 18th Summit of the G 20, comprising 19 countries and the European Union, takes place this weekend in New Delhi, India. The Presidency of G 20 is held by India for last year and ends with this Summit. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will be the official Chairman under the theme proposed by India of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future.’ At the end of the discussions the Summit is likely to adopt a communique referred to as the Leaders’ Declaration, expressing their commitment to the goals contained in the Declaration. This Declaration is usually thrashed out in scores of Ministerial Meetings and of Working Groups during the course of the preceding year. The 19 countries in the G 20 are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK and the US.
The G 20 emerged from the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s when it was realised that the exclusive and restrictive G 7 club, comprising the seven countries with the largest economies, was inadequate to address the challenges of the global economy much, though not all of it, originating in the G 7 countries. The inaugural meeting took place in Berlin, Germany, in December, 1999, to discuss international financial stability and cooperation. The G 20 focuses generally on economic and financial issues, including macroeconomic coordination, financial market stability, trade, investment, development and climate change. In addition to regular meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors, the G 20 holds annual summits which are attended by heads of state and heads of government. They provide a platform for leaders to agree not only on economic and financial matters but also a broader range of global challenges including climate change, sustainable development and geopolitical issues.
Formal agendas are not published for G 20 summits. However, India, as the President and the host, will be interested in promoting its own influence in world affairs and seeking to play an influential role in the outcomes of the Summit. While its discordant internal politics with rampant and rising hostility and violence to its 200 million Muslims has been noted in adverse publicity worldwide, it is hardly likely to affect the outcome of the Summit. In relation to its direct interests, India has declared itself as “the voice of the Global South.” It seeks to represent and promote the interests of those countries whose voices are not usually heard. In this regard the African Union has been named a member of the G 20 and invited to attend. Caricom’s diplomatic clout is sadly lacking. As the oldest existing community after the EU that speaks for 17 countries, Caricom needs a dynamic foreign affairs department that will promote its membership of and presence at these meetings.
Apart from financial, economic and trade matters and climate change, the Ukraine war was likely to have taken a prominent place in the negotiations for an agreed position. At the G 20 Bali Declaration of 2022 the Summit “strongly” condemned the war but added that “there were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.” In a recent statement the White House said that the G 20 partners will discuss a range of efforts to tackle global issues including “mitigating the economic and social impacts of Putin’s war in Ukraine.” The Russians had threatened to derail efforts to secure a declaration unless its interests were considered in relation to any declaration on Ukraine. However, on Saturday morning there were several reports, including from Reuters, that Prime Minister Modi had announced that there had been agreement on the declaration relating to Ukraine.
The news that dominated comments and discussions at least a week before the Summit was the indication from China that President Xi Jinping of China will not be attending but will be represented by China’s Premier, Li Quiang. This information from China came shortly after the conclusion of the BRICS Summit in South Africa which was attended by both China and India. There was much speculation about President Xi’s decision. Among the assessments were that: President Xi is snubbing India, with whom China has tense relations which have never been good at the best of times as a consequence of border disputes which flare up in clashes resulting in deaths from time to time; that he is delivering a snub to the United States that has started and is deepening an economic war with China in order to hinder and retard its economic development; and that it is an indication of an intention of China’s broader disengagement with the West.
As the second largest economy and the second most populous country in the world with substantial trading relations with the West, China cannot afford to disengage with the West or any other countries. Its upcoming Belt and Road Conference has already attracted the likely attendance of 90 countries, an indication of China’s influence. President Xi’s non-attendance at the G 20 Summit probably intends to achieve limited objectives or to send less consequential messages than breaking with the West. Doing so would be going against all that China believes and has advocated in its relations with other countries.