As global leaders congregate in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the G20 summit, speculation about the outcome of the meetings abounds – not least of all President Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which will have major implications for the U.S.-China trade dispute.
The G20 summit is an annual meeting of leaders of the world's largest economies, which collectively are responsible for 85 percent of global economic output and two-thirds of the world's population. Amid the mounting anticipation of this year’s gathering, the power and purpose of the G20 summit must not be underestimated.
A global approach is paramount to the advancement of countless critical issues: global security, counter extremism, the future of work, the environment, the advancement of women, combating poverty, the international refugee crisis, etc. International forums like the G20 summit can and should be the place for these important conversations. And the conversations should all be collaborative.
Take for example the situation in Venezuela. Venezuela is enduring a political and humanitarian crisis. A monthly inflation rate of 130 percent and a poverty rate of 90 percent have led to food and medical shortages. Corruption, a crackdown on the free press, and unlawful political imprisonments are contributing to the uncertainty and fear in the streets.
All of this is driving a mass exodus of Venezuelans. It is critical that the Latin American countries come together to establish a coherent strategy for how to address the humanitarian crisis, and the security threat posed by the current government.
Other countries being impacted by this crisis need the world’s support too, in particular Colombia, which could face an influx of 5 million asylum seekers. For a country of 50 million people, that is an enormous burden.
The global community must unite to support frontline countries in their humanitarian response, and participate in creating a cohesive regional solution for a long-term response. With this year’s summit being hosted by Argentine President Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires, now is the perfect time for this to happen.
Resolving the crisis will also entail addressing the refugee crises and mass migrations spanning from Central and South America up to the southern U.S. border. This is a crisis of humanity for the entire hemisphere.
These gatherings are given great importance all around the world, but we must hold them to account. What are their actionable achievements? What progress do they actually make?
Another issue high on the G20 summit agenda is the future of trade. Historically, the greatest area of cooperation at the G20 summit has been trade and commerce. This week’s meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping presents an opportunity for an open dialogue about a path forward that benefits both countries and prevents a descent into a trade war.
With increased tariffs on China due to take effect in January, the G20 summit will be an important opportunity for the Trump administration to outline its vision for trade agreements, modeled off of its new agreement with Mexico and Canada (the USMCA). This is the model the administration wants for its dealings with the rest of the world, and the G20 summit is the place to present it.
It should be the goal of the G20 summit to develop concrete plans for addressing these and other pressing issues. But currently, it is not living up to its full potential. More can, and must, be done to facilitate action-oriented outcomes and meaningful change on important global matters. These gatherings are given great importance all around the world, but we must hold them to account. What are their actionable achievements? What progress do they actually make?
For the G20 summit to live up to its full potential, there must be conversations among its participants not only about its goals, but also about the actions that will be taken to pursue those goals after the meetings and discussions have ended. If that happens, maybe the summit can be celebrated for its outcomes and output – not just the photograph.
Of course, this is easier said than done. It requires immense preparation, and most governments operate with tremendous risk aversion. The most important first step is for the G20 summit to serve as a deadline for governments to come to the table with actionable solutions. The U.S. needs this to happen, and so does the rest of the world.
Let's hope it does.