Climate change, COVID and energy prices top the G20 agenda at world leaders meeting

ROME – President Joe Biden will meet with a number of world leaders on Saturday as members of the Group of Twenty on how best to deal with daunting global economic challenges ranging from climate change to rising energy prices.

The G20, an annual gathering of international leaders representing the world’s largest economies, brings together heads of state for a two-day meeting chaired by Italy, this year’s host country.

In addition to the United States, the G20, established in 1999 in the wake of a series of global economic crises, includes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, and Japan. Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the European Union.

The member countries collectively make up nearly 80 percent of global GDP and 60 percent of the world’s population, although some of the most populous countries – such as Pakistan and Nigeria – are not part of the G-20.

Here’s what to watch in Rome.

Who is there – and who is not?

This year’s meeting will be the first time the G20 has met in person in more than a year, after the 2020 summit was hypothetical due to the pandemic.

However, not everyone is expected to make the trip to Rome.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person due to the ongoing pandemic according to a Kremlin spokesperson, but he will participate via video link. Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will stay at home due to the country’s general election on October 31. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will also not attend, although he rarely travels outside his country and skipped the 2019 G-20 in Japan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not left his country since Covid was first infected in January 2020, will not attend the meeting in person due to Covid concerns and will actively participate. Biden and Xi said they plan to hold a virtual summit before the end of the year.

Easing Tensions with European Allies

Nine months into his administration, Biden has continued many of the policies laid out by former President Donald Trump on trade, China and Afghanistan, and foreign policy analysts say his approach to other issues, including vaccines and national security, still maintains Trump’s echoes. The slogan “America First”.

There is no doubt that Biden left Trump in tactics – he does not send tweets threatening war with North Korea, and he has embraced international cooperation on issues such as climate change and national defense.

But many of the world leaders he will join at the G-20 are among those who hoped the politics and political dynamics of Trump’s presidency would disappear when he left office and found themselves frustrated.

“Trump has been someone they find difficult to deal with, but there is a realization that some of the same political pressures that have pushed Trump into an ‘America First’ position are making themselves felt towards the Biden administration,” said Charles Kupchan, a foreign policy official. Adviser in the Obama Administration and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

That frustration surfaced last month, when the French said they were surprised by an agreement between Australia and the United States for nuclear-powered submarines — the kind of action French leaders said they were expecting from the Trump administration, not the Biden administration. (Biden met in person with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday. Biden acknowledged that what we did “was clumsy,” and said he “had the impression that France had reported it before.”)

Tensions with European allies were already growing over the travel restrictions imposed by the Biden administration under the Trump administration due to Covid. Allies also said they were left reeling after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, after Biden followed the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all troops from the country.

“There is a sense that the Biden administration may not have been careful about cooperating with other countries,” said Jeff Dayton-Johnson, dean of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “The Biden administration can use the G-20 summit to show that it is dedicated to teamwork.”

The White House has retracted the narrative of the strained relationship between the United States and its closest European partners. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan noted areas in which the United States and the European Union have been working together in recent months, such as Covid vaccines, a global pledge on methane, and a Council on Trade and Technology.

Sullivan said Tuesday in a briefing to reporters about the meeting.

Confronting China’s influence

One of the biggest tensions between the Biden administration and the number of leaders attending the summit will be over how to counter China’s growing influence.

Several European leaders have urged the United States to de-escalate tensions with China, fearing that a tit-for-tat trade war would hurt the global economy and have broader implications for national security. Developing countries with increasing financial ties to China fear having to choose between the two superpowers.

But more than nine months into his administration, Biden has yet to remove any of the hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs Trump has imposed, even though the administration said this month it would allow targeted Chinese imports to be exempted from some tariffs. . US business groups have criticized the tariffs for increasing costs that are then passed on to consumers.

The Biden administration is also continuing to enforce the China trade agreement brokered by the Trump administration. Catherine Tay, Biden’s chief trade representative, accused China of failing to implement commitments in the deal.

Biden has made competitiveness with China increasingly central to his domestic sales to get two sweeping spending bills through Congress, citing the need to compete more aggressively with China in the areas of clean energy, electric vehicles and early childhood education.

But the Biden administration has shown a greater willingness to look for areas to work with China, such as climate change, and Biden has toned down anti-China rhetoric in the Trump years.

Progress in efforts to address climate change

The urgent need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be high on the agenda of the G20, and will serve as the basis for United Nations climate talks, which will be held just days later in Glasgow, Scotland.

G20 nations account for nearly 80 percent of global emissions, and this week’s meeting follows a number of alarming reports warning that the global community has a narrow time window to take meaningful action on climate change or face catastrophic consequences.

“By definition, the twenty largest economies in the world are also the biggest polluters,” said Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. “If you travel from Rome to Glasgow and you don’t present an ambitious plan and you’re a G20 country, you don’t lead and you will criticize other countries.”

Climate experts have frustrated efforts so far by G-20 countries to cut emissions and urged more ambitious targets. While Biden unveiled a new framework for his “Building Back Better” agenda on Thursday that includes $555 billion in new climate initiatives, some have warned that he is not doing enough to reach his goal of reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 1 percent. at least 50%. by 2030.

The prickly politics of rising energy prices

Energy prices are rising in the United States and in Europe, leading to sharp cost increase Gas and electricity to consumers.

A senior administration official said there will be major oil consumers and suppliers in the G20, and that Biden will use the situation to put pressure on major oil producers who may produce more.

“We have a voice and we intend to use it on an issue that affects the global economy such as oil prices,” the official said.

While the rise of oil and gas is a thorny political issue for many leaders, Biden and other heads of state will have to go through these conversations without undermining their message about the importance of shifting the world away from natural gas to renewable energy.

Pressure to tackle global COVID vaccine inequality

Rich countries, including the United States, have raced to vaccinate their populations, stockpile doses of the vaccine and even deliver a second or third booster dose as many poor countries still struggle to get supplies.

And while international financial institutions have predicted that rich countries will recoup the losses incurred during the pandemic by 2022, economic recovery in poor countries is expected to take much longer, accelerating global inequality.

“I am very concerned,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are not organized for success in terms of vaccine production. There is a very high risk that the world will fail to meet the needs and as a result not many people who would otherwise be saved will die, but we also have an increased risk of the emergence and spread of more dangerous variants.”

International organizations have set a goal of vaccinating 40 percent of each country’s population by the end of this year, but it is being done It is unlikely that this goal will be achieved. Most of the G20 countries said this level of inequality is a problem, and pressure will be on them to introduce a new vaccine and financial commitments to bridge the gap.

Agreement on global minimum taxes

More than 130 countries earlier this month approved a minimum global tax of 15 percent on companies, aiming to end a race to the bottom over corporate taxes that could prevent companies from leaving the United States for low-tax countries.

The G20 heads of state are expected to continue discussing and formally agreeing the new rule – which would be the biggest change to the international tax system in decades – with the hope of implementing it in 2023.

There are still some details to work on – for example, negotiations were halted briefly earlier this month due to disagreements between the US and European countries over Digital Services Taxes — But any move forward would be a significant and a win-win for Biden, whose domestic agenda depends in part on the revenue to be collected from the new tax base.

“It’s a remarkable achievement,” Dayton Johnson said.

“It may not be as flashy as the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris declaration on climate change, but it’s something that will make a difference in the global economy and make a difference to jobs at home,” he added.

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