Relief in Geneva after a busy G20

Bali may be 12,000km from Geneva, but with the G20 Summit taking place there this week, it has never seemed so close, and the results are seen here as positive. From the official meetings to the sidelines, and a final communiqué stating that “most members strongly condemn the war in Ukraine,” and that “the use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” the G20 managed, to the relief of the UN and the wider multilateral system, to go beyond its primary vocation of coordinating the world’s economic situation.

In these fraught geopolitical times, the fact that such a communiqué would be accepted by all members—including China and the US—is, in itself, of significance. Diplomats and UN representatives present in Bali told The G|O that this was in large part the result of Monday morning’s ‘G2’ great powers summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping.

When it came to its core remit of acting as an economic coordination platform, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s two-hour meeting with Chinese central bank Governor Yi Gang was interpreted as a positive sign that the two superpowers were ready to try stabilizing the markets. The meeting marked Secretary Yellen’s first in-person discussion with a senior Chinese economic official.

A few hours later, the final communiqué declared that the G20 countries had agreed to calibrate monetary tightening and expressed their commitment to avoid excessive exchange-rate volatility—issues at the heart of the agenda of the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). On debt, the group also concluded that the “deteriorating” situation of some middle-income countries is worrisome.

Present in Bali, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stressed that major economies face a real risk of sliding into recession, as the war in Ukraine, plus rising food and fuel costs, continue to affect their capacity to overcome the impact the pandemic years had on their economies. At the WTO, a global recession—a situation in which governments tend not to cede ground—coupled with a lack of dialogue is seen as the major threat to the organization’s reform, which will require major concessions and compromises by all. G20 watchers also credit the intense diplomatic work done in Bali for the extension of the Black Sea Grain deal. “We support the international efforts to keep food supply chains functioning under challenging circumstances. […] We are committed to addressing food insecurity by ensuring accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of food and food products for those in need, particularly in developing countries and least developed countries,” reads the final communiqué from the summit.