Shortcuts / 10 November 2022

The 2022 G20 leaders’ summit

Next week leaders from around the globe will converge on Bali for a meeting of the G20 – which is the forum that brings together the world’s biggest economies. There’s been a lot of focus on a possible showdown between the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia – but there is plenty more to watch out for. So in this week’s Squiz Shortcut, we break down the big issues on the G20’s agenda, how the Russia issue is going to play out in Bali, and some of the other diplomatic landmines waiting for the world’s leaders.

It’s that time of year again…
It sure is, and we’re not talking about Christmas… It’s summit season, so our PM Anthony Albanese is jetting off today to attend some big meetings. The G20 – or Group of 20 – is the biggest one on the calendar, and this year it’s being held in Bali in Indonesia.

Sounds nice…
And it’s also not too far for our PM to travel. The G20 is usually held in the Americas or Europe, so he’ll get to arrive jetlag-free while those from further away wonder what time zone and climate they’ve walked into…

So what’s the G20 all about?
At its heart, the G20 is meant to be an economic forum. It links up the 20 largest/fastest-growing economies, and together they contribute 80% of what the world produces.

What’s on the agenda?
The glossy G20 website talks about the “pillars” of this summit being digital transformation, global health architecture and sustainable energy transition.

Umm, ok…
Yep, and no doubt officials have been toiling on all those important issues behind the scenes for months and months – but you just can’t get past the fact that the meeting could bring together US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping, and then there’s the anticipated confrontation with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

But Putin’s not going…
No, that was confirmed just yesterday, but it’s expected he will participate virtually for some of it, so let’s see to that plays out. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was also invited to attend in person as a special guest – his nation isn’t a G20 country. He’ll also likely dial in. 

So safe to say politics and personalities will dominate the meeting…
It’s been a really tricky diplomatic exercise just to get the G20 happening this year… Indonesian President Joko Widodo is hosting, and he’s been performing a major juggle to pull it off.

What did he do?
He went to Kyiv and Moscow to meet with both leaders. And until this week, Putin said he would be there, much to the horror of some other leaders.

US President Joe Biden has been leading the charge to isolate Russia – he doesn’t exactly want to have to personally interact with Putin or his officials. And before he became UK PM, Rishi Sunak said “sitting round a table with Putin isn’t good enough when he is responsible for children being killed in their beds as they sleep.”

What has PM Anthony Albanese said?
That he’ll go because “that’s what good leadership is all about – showing up and standing up for Australian interests.”

Hang on, I thought you said this was an economic forum…
It is, but Russia’s war on Ukraine is also a global economic issue, and G20 leaders can’t really have a discussion about one without the other. 

What’s the biggest issue?
Putting energy and grain shortages aside – it’s inflation. Argentina takes the cake with price rises of over 70% this year… But European countries are still close to 10% inflation, and in the US, South East Asia and Oz, it’s running between 5-9%. It’s a huge problem.

Here’s an idea – wouldn’t it have been easier to just leave Russia out?
Maybe… But President Widodo feared China and President Xi Jinping would have pulled out and then the whole summit might have collapsed.

What’s going on there?
It’s a big deal that Presidents Biden and Xi will be in the same room together – it will be the first time the 2 have met face-to-face since Biden’s election in 2020. US and Chinese officials have been negotiating their socks off to make that work, and this morning it’s been confirmed a 1:1 meeting will happen. 

Why is that such a big deal?
Well, we know that the relationship has become increasingly fraught, especially over the issue of Taiwan. At the recent Communist Party Congress, Xi refused to rule out using force to unify with Taiwan, and Biden has said US troops would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

What about Xi and Albanese… Any chance of a meeting?
Yesterday Albanese said that’s what he’s pushing for – either at this G20 summit or the APEC leaders’ meeting in Thailand on Friday and Saturday next week. 

So we’re not exactly best mates right now?
Oz-China relations have been pretty fragile for a few years now, and China’s put us in the trade freezer over a range of things, including former PM Morrison’s calls for an investigation over the origins of COVID.

When was the last time Xi met with an Aussie PM?
It’s been 5 years… That was with Malcolm Turnbull on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg. 

Any other elephants in the room?
Well, there’s also Saudi Arabia… The Saudis are not popular with a lot of G20 countries at the moment. 

It’s a mix of human rights issues and oil. Saudi Arabia is one of the leaders of OPEC – a group including Middle Eastern countries that export oil. Recently it decided to cut oil production – right at the time when the world is screaming out for more fuel for energy production.

What’s that about?
The group says that it has to do with the uncertainty that’s around the global economy and the oil market outlooks. But of course, cutting production means higher prices. And by doing this, some experts say OPEC and the Saudis have sided with Russia.

Why is that seen as a pro-Russia move?
Because Russia is also an exporter of oil, so it gets the benefit of those price-hikes too.

And it’s not just about Russia, right?
No, restricting the supply of oil also keeps petrol prices high in a lot of countries, including Australia – right as we’re trying to get inflation under control.

So #itscomplicated?
It sure is – and there’s a lot for those G20 leaders to talk about. At least they get to do it in a beautiful setting… 

Squiz recommends:

Malcolm Turnbull’s selfie with Xi Jinping and Donald Trump

A British Vogue gallery celebrating Brigitte Macron’s G20 outfits back at the G20 in 2017. So chic…

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