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Five Hottest Topics at the G-20 Summit

Joint photo session of the heads of delegations from the G20, invited guest countries and international organisations.
Joint photo session of the heads of delegations from the G20, invited guest countries and international organisations. (Photo: Kremlin.ru)

The annual G-20 summit wrapped up in Japan, but while it was long on topics it remains to be seen whether it will result in any action.

On Saturday, June 29, the annual summit of G-20 member countries wrapped up in the Japanese city of Osaka. The summit resulted in a document produced by the participating countries called the G20 Osaka Leaders’ Declaration. It consists of 43 points established at the summit that comment on a variety of issues including economic growth, technology, infrastructure, climate change, anti-corruption efforts and global health, as well as equality and women empowerment.


Five Highlights From The Summit

All Eyes on Trump-Xi Jinping Trade Talks

Trade talks between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping were the most anticipated moment in the summit given the impact of the trade war between both countries on the global economy.

Both leaders agreed to restart trade negotiations and refrain from imposing additional tariffs on each other. However, despite the warmer communications, there is no sign the trade war is over.

“Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” the China Daily said in an editorial quoted by Reuters.

Michael Taylor from Moody’s Investor Service echoed the Daily’s editorial saying that the truce would be short-lived given that both countries have yet to cancel the tariffs already slapped on each other. Taylor, Moody’s Chief Credit Officer for the Asia Pacific Region, explained that restarting trade talks would not automatically revise the global outlook.

Taylor told BFM Radio that the trade truce would “partially relieve recent negative sentiment in the financial markets” the ceasefire “does not fundamentally change their (Moody’s) outlook for the global economy.”

Ongoing Iran-US tension

One of the most sensitive issues at the G-20 was the escalating tension between the U.S. and Iran. The tension was first triggered by Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) over accusations that Iran had violated the deal and posed a threat to Middle East stability.

Notably, Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) discussed the Iran issue on the sidelines of the G-20.

“The two leaders discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring stability in the Middle East and in the global oil market. They also discussed the threat posed by the Iranian regime’s escalatory behavior,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Washington is planning to impose sanctions on countries which buy Iranian oil and withdrew previous temporary exemptions.

“We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil. There are right now no oil waivers in place,” said U.S Special Envoy to Iran Brian Hook, adding that the administration intends to “sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil.”

Last year, Washington withdrew from the JCPOA, which was signed in 2015, claiming the agreement was not adequate in pushing Iran to stop its nuclear programs. The withdrawal came despite claims by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran was in full compliance of the deal.

Iran retaliated by suspending some of the formerly agreed to terms in the JCPOA and exceeding the uranium-enrichment limit (300 kilograms) allowed by the deal.

European countries are pressuring Iran to stick with the deal but did not specify any potential consequences if the Islamic state fails to do so. Tehran set a July 7 deadline for Europe to provide a range of efforts to provide relief from U.S. sanctions.

US-Russia Will Continue Nuclear Talks

After attending the G-20 summit, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Russia and the U.S. will begin negotiations regarding nuclear arms control, but Putin stressed the talks will not necessarily lead to an extension of the nuclear arms treaty, START3, which has stalled for several years.

“We have charged our respective foreign ministers with starting consultations on this subject… but we can not yet say whether this will lead to an extension of START3,” Putin told reporters after the summit.

Both Russia and the U.S. are signatories of the NEW START treaty signed in 2010. The pact placed limits on the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and placed limits on other weapons including inter-continental ballistic missile launchers. The agreement expires in 2021 and there is concern it won’t be extended. Putin previously claimed that the U.S. snubbed his invitation to negotiate the possible extension of the pact.

Trump admitted discussing arms control with Putin during a closed-door meeting in Osaka, signaling that his administration was willing to negotiate a new agreement.

Climate Change

All G-20 member countries (except the U.S.) pledged their commitment to the Paris Climate Accord and said in the G-20 Declaration that they are committed to a wide variety of clean technologies and approaches.

In the 2018 G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Washington announced its plan to exit from the Paris deal, arguing that the climate agreement brings disadvantages to American taxpayers and workers.

The 2019 host country, Japan, is under criticism for moving too slow to reduce plastic waste. Japan issued a regulation that requires retailers to charge a fee for plastic bags, but the move comes off as too little, too late as several countries have already banned the use of disposable plastic altogether.

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace slammed Japan for not being serious in mitigating climate change after the country set a neutral carbon target date of after 2050 due to its need for coal as an energy source.

Big Data

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe introduced his “Data Free Flow With Trust” initiative, also being called the “Osaka Track,” which aims to facilitate the free movement of data across international boundaries by establishing international rules.

However, not all countries support the initiative. India, Indonesia, South Africa refused to sign onto the Osaka Track initiative. New Delhi argued that data is a new form of wealth and should be stored in native countries rather than in foreign nations in order to protect privacy.

India is among countries that stress the importance of data localization. The country’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale stated that a discussion on data should take place within the World Trade Organization (WTO) context.

“We also affirm the role of data for development. From our perspective, data is a major issue, it is an issue which we are also domestically looking at where international rule-making is taking place,” Gokhale said as Scroll.in wrote.

Most developed nations, except China, are in favor of free-data flow as then they can save their data in the world’s most efficient locations. While India, Indonesia, and South Africa are more focused on allowing local companies to compete on a global level before enabling free data movement, as the Indian-based Times Now News channel explained.

“The Reserve Bank of India had issued guidelines in 2018, stating that all the data of the Indian customers related to the payment systems should be stored in a system only in India. Now, apart from payments, the Indian government is currently mooting to table a Bill in Parliament that would require all private players, social media giants, and search engine Google to store their data in India,” Times Now wrote.

One last noteworthy achievement at the summit was Japan’s success in including the infrastructure program it established along with the World Bank in the G-20 declaration.

The program, called the Quality Infrastructure Investment, aims to focus on more integrated and sustainable development in developing countries. Some consider the program a counter to the Chinese-initiated New Silk Road which many countries see as a debt-trap.

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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