G20 leaders meet in Argentina with the world economy at a crossroads

China Plus Published: 2018-11-30 20:49:59
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Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."

This year's G20 summit, which kicks off in Buenos Aires on Friday, marks the first time that a South American country has hosted a G20 leaders' meeting since the mechanism was launched a decade ago. Its host Argentina has provided a thought-provoking logo for the meeting: It takes the form of five concentric rings of dots representing the continents; the 20 dots in the outermost ring represent the 20 member states, and different colors of the dots represent the diverse topics on the agenda.

The International Media Center with the G20 logo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. [Photo: China Plus/Yan Ming]

The International Media Center with the G20 logo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. [Photo: China Plus/Yan Ming]

The six major topics for discussion at this year's meeting, namely the world economy, trade and investment, the digital economy, sustainable development, infrastructure, and climate change, are nothing new for the gathering leaders. But against the backdrop of rising protectionism and the vilification of the multilateral trading system, the discussions have a growing sense of urgency.

We already have clear warning signs that the global economy is facing trouble. Contributing to the current bleak outlook for the world economy are the trade wars putting pressure on emerging markets and the gloomy forecasts for the Eurozone. The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast for 2018 and 2019 by 0.2 percentage point to 3.7 percent, its first downward revision since July 2016. And between Q2 and Q3 this year, Germany, Europe's largest economy, saw its economy contract by 0.2 percent, with some economists saying that could signpost the end of five years of growth in the euro zone.

How can world leaders contain the risk of a more wide-reaching economic downturn? IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has expressed her hope that the G20 meeting will allow the leaders to rekindle the spirit of teamwork, steer clear of introducing further trade barriers, and reverse recent tariffs. She believes the gathering provides a unique opportunity to improve the global trading system, a view backed by IMF research that suggests liberalizing the trade in services could add about half a percent – worth 350 billion U.S. dollars – to the GDP of the G20 countries in the long run.

"Those who work alone, add; those who work together, multiply." When he quoted this German proverb at the G20 summit in Hamburg last year, China's President Xi Jinping was making the point that the most valuable asset the G20 members have is their ability to work collectively to solve wide-reaching global problems. And as the world economy stands at a crossroads between greater opening up and receding into the illusion of stability provided by national boundaries, the need for the world's leaders to work together is as great now as it has been at any time in the G20's decade-long history.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of chinaandgreece.com, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.