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