G20: Leaders fail to agree on trade issues

Leaders at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.

Many leaders of the world’s top 20 economies voiced concern over trade tensions and the risk they pose to global growth.

The leaders were at loggerheads on key issues such as World Trade Organization (WTO) reform, Japanese and Russian delegates said.

The bitter U.S.-China trade war and signs of slowdown in the global economy have overshadowed a two-day Group of 20 summit.

The summit kicked off in Osaka, western Japan, on Friday with a session on the world economy and trade.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, who was present at the meeting, said the G20 heads discussed ways to address common challenges.

These challenges include promoting free trade and jump-starting stalled talks on reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO).

There are downside risks to the global economy as trade tensions escalate. Against this background, the G20 leaders agreed on the need for the group to drive global growth,” Nishimura said.

But that was as far as they could agree, as U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies and aversion to multilateralism test the solidarity of the G20.

Russia’s Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said there was no common agreement among the G20 members on how to reform the WTO.

The G20 leaders were also struggling to find common ground on issues such as information security, climate change and migration, said Svetlana Lukash, Russia’s sherpa to the group.

Currently work on the final (G20) documents is ongoing and this is not going easy,” Lukash told reporters.

But she added a final G20 communique will likely be signed, as well as other documents related to the group’s agenda that may be in a “more political format.

Japan, as chair of this year’s G20 meetings, has sought to downplay the rift emerging among the group’s members on various topics, notably trade – with little success.

French President Emmanuel Macron had also said his country will not sign off on a G20 communique that does not mention the Paris agreement on climate change.

Japanese media has reported that Tokyo, as a compromise on phrasing the thorny issue of trade, is working with its G20 counterparts on a communique that would call for the “promotion of free trade” to achieve strong global growth.


Chidi Nwoke.