Climate change, Covid and energy prices top G-20 agenda as world leaders convene


President Joe Biden will meet with a number of world leaders on Saturday as members of the G-20 debate how to best tackle massive global economic challenges ranging from climate change to the spiking energy prices.

The Group of 20, an annual gathering of international leaders representing the world’s biggest economies, will bring together heads of state for a two-day meeting under the chairmanship of Italy, this year’s hosts.

In addition to the United States, the Group of 20, which was founded in 1999 following a series of global economic crises, includes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the European Union.

Member countries combined make up roughly 80 percent of global GDP and 60 percent of the world 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 for in Rome.

Who’s there — and who isn’t

This year’s meeting will be the first time the G-20 is convening in-person in more than a year, after the 2020 summit was virtual due to the pandemic.

Still, 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. Japan’s new prime minister Fumio Kishida is staying home due to the country’s general election on Oct. 31. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López 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 first hit in January 2020, won’t be at the meeting in person due to Covid concerns and will participate virtually. Biden and Xi have said they plan to hold a virtual summit before the end of the year.

Soothing of tensions with European allies

Nine months into his administration, Biden has continued many policies put in place by former President Donald Trump with regard to trade, China, and Afghanistan, and foreign policy analysts say his approach to other issues, including vaccines and national security, retain echoes of Trump’s “America First” mantra.

Biden has undoubtedly departed from Trump on tactics — he does not send tweets threatening war with North Korea, and he has embraced international cooperation on issues like climate change and national defense.

But many of the world leaders he will join at the G-20 are among those who had hoped the policies and political dynamics of the Trump presidency would disappear when he left office and have found themselves disappointed.

“Trump was someone they found difficult to deal with, but there is a realization that some of the same political pressure that pushed Trump to an ‘America First’ stance are making themselves felt on the Biden administration,” said Charles Kupchan, a foreign policy advisor in the Obama administration and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

That frustration came to the surface last month, when the French said they were blindsided by an agreement between Australia and the U.S. for nuclear-powered submarines — the type of action French leaders said they would have expected from Trump’s administration, not Biden’s. (Biden met in-person with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday. Biden acknowledged that what “we did was clumsy,” and said that he “was under the impression France had been informed before.”)

Tensions with European allies had already been growing over Trump-era Covid travel restrictions the Biden administration had kept in place. Allies also said they were left scrambling following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, after Biden followed through on the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all forces from the country.

“There’s a sense that maybe the Biden administration has not been as careful about cooperation 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 working collectively.”

The White House has pushed back on the narrative of a strained relationship between the U.S. and its closest European partners. National security adviser Jake Sullivan pointed to areas where the U.S. and the European Union have been working together in recent months, like on Covid vaccinations, a global methane pledge, and a trade and technology council.

“After a lot of commentary in recent weeks about the state of the transatlantic relationship, the United States and Europe head into these two summits aligned and united on the major elements of the global agenda,” said Sullivan on Tuesday in briefing with reporters on the meeting.

Confronting China’s influence

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

Several European leaders have urged the U.S. to de-escalate tensions with China, fearing the tit-for-tat trade war would hurt the global economy and have wider national security implications. Developing countries with increasing financial ties to China have feared 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 put in place by Trump, though this month the administration said it would allow targeted Chinese imports to be exempt from some of the tariffs. U.S. business groups have criticized the tariffs for driving up costs that are then passed on to consumers.

Culled from ABcnews

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