Saturday 25 March 2017

G20 leaders fail to deal with free trade obstacles

US President Barack Obama: little to show at final G20 summit. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama: little to show at final G20 summit. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Kevin Yao

Leaders from the world's top economies broadly agreed at a summit in China yesterday to coordinate macroeconomic policies and oppose protectionism.

But few concrete proposals emerged to meet growing challenges to globalisation and free trade.

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at a press conference held at the end of the G-20 summit in Hangzhou in eastern China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at a press conference held at the end of the G-20 summit in Hangzhou in eastern China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The two-day gathering in the scenic Chinese city of Hangzhou agreed to oppose protectionism, with Chinese President Xi Jinping urging major economies to drive growth through innovation, not just fiscal and monetary measures.

"We aim to revive growth engines of international trade and investment," Xi said in a closing statement.

"We will support multilateral trade mechanisms and oppose protectionism to reverse declines in global trade."

Discussions at the meeting were distracted by North Korea test-firing three medium-range ballistic missiles in a defiant reminder of the risks to global security.

North Korea has tested missiles at sensitive times in the past to draw attention to its military might. But yesterday's launch risked embarrassing its main ally Beijing, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure a smooth summit meeting in Hangzhou.

Beijing said it hoped relevant parties would avoid taking any actions that would escalate tensions.

The United States called the launch reckless, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told US President Barack Obama that it was unforgivable.

On other fronts, the United States tried but failed to finalise a deal with Russia for a ceasefire in Syria on the sidelines of the summit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, attending her first G20 summit, said governments needed to "do more to ensure that working people really benefit from the opportunities created by free trade."

"This discussion goes to the heart of how we build an economy that works for everyone," she said.

It is President Obama's last G20 summit, and his visit to Hangzhou got off to a chaotic start.

There was no rolling staircase provided for Air Force One when it landed and Obama had to disembark from the plane's belly.

Then, a Chinese security official blocked National Security Adviser Susan Rice on the tarmac and yelled at another US official trying to help journalists get closer to Obama.

China blamed the US and journalists for the incidents.

Irish Independent

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