The elephant in the middle of the G20 summit room

Today, Tuesday, the 15 day of November, the 17th Summit of the G20, in Bali, Indonesia. By the beginning of the year, the summit would have a clear purpose, world economic recovery as humanity begins to emerge from the covid-19 pandemic. With the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, however, and the continuity of the conflict, the summit gained new expectations. The problem is that they are expectations that can be frustrated.

OG20 is an economics-driven forum, bringing together nineteen of the main national economies, plus the Union European. He gained strength precisely to discuss international financial stability in the context of the 2008 crisis. Later, guidelines such as sustainable development were incorporated. It was not created to be a forum for political consultation.

The very fact that the event, with the motto “Recovering together, recovering stronger”, is held in Bali is connected with the initial purpose of post-pandemic recovery. The island, whose economy depends on tourism, has been deeply affected by the pandemic. Indonesia, occupying the rotating presidency of the G20, chose to hold the summit in Bali for the event to serve as a world showcase and recover tourist interest in the paradisiacal destination.

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The point is that, today, it is not possible to talk about the world economy without talking about the war in Ukraine. And the conflict does not seem to have a solution in the short term. Officially, the positions of Ukraine and Russia are too far apart to negotiate. In recent days, there has been speculation some momentum in talks due to the meeting, in Turkey, between the director of the CIA, Bill Burns, and his counterpart from the Russian SVR, Sergei Naryshkin.

Joko Widodo, president from Indonesia and host of G20, was certainly aware of this. Therefore, he invited Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, to the event, with the expected presence of Vladimir Putin. The Ukrainian will speak to G 20 by video, without physical presence, and Putin announced that he will not go, replaced by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov. That is, without face-to-face negotiations between the leaders.

Just as an observation, Russia, Mexico and Brazil are the only participants that are not represented by their heads of government or state. This is only the second time that the Brazilian president does not attend the G20. In 2010, Lula suspended his participation due to floods in Alagoas and Pernambuco. That year, Jair Bolsonaro did not clarify his absence.

Of course, the G20 summit will not be a completely wasted opportunity. We will have the first personal meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping as representatives of their countries. The two had a long relationship when Biden was Obama’s vice president and Xi Jinping was his counterpart, Hu Jintao’s vice president. The meeting is expected to provide a clear outline of how the relationship between the two powers will be.

Other opportunities

In addition, as already explained in other circumstances, this type of summit allows a myriad of bilateral meetings between leaders unlikely to be in the same place. For dedicated and interested leadership, they allow for full schedules and many opportunities. It also allows for unofficial parallel conversations that can advance important agendas and agendas.

Negotiations within the ministerial meetings of the G20 have also yielded agreements for funds of post-pandemic economic recovery in economically fragile regions, as well as a possible fund to prevent future pandemics. Other agendas, such as sustainable development, are eclipsed by the COP 27 that takes place simultaneously in Egypt. Something that could even be avoided.

Even so, Bali’s G20 will have to deal with a huge elephant in the middle of the room. Fuel, renewable energy, food prices, infrastructure projects, all of this is directly linked to the conflict in Ukraine, so these topics will not be discussed in depth. And all this reasoning has only one logical conclusion, which, unfortunately, does not depend on the efforts of the G20.

Economics and politics are not dissociated. There is no ideal, ethereal world, such as a physics question in an entrance exam. Wanting to rethink the world economy without thinking about the current conflict in Ukraine is like the issue that calls for a resolution while the vestibulando “disregards the friction”. Therefore, what else we will see in G20 will probably be requests for the conflict to be closed. It won’t be in time for the summit, unfortunately.

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