World economy, trade, multilateralism high on G20 summit's agenda

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Photo taken on June 10, 2019 shows the Tennoji Park in Osaka, Japan. [Photo/Xinhua]

As the world economic growth is increasingly threatened and encumbered by trade tensions, the Group of 20 (G20) summit to be held in Osaka from Friday to Saturday is expected to play a leading role to ease tensions and safeguard the multilateral trading system.

The summit will attract leaders from G20 members and major international organizations. Global economy, trade and investment are among the eight main themes.

The rising protectionism in the global trading system has increased uncertainties to the global economy and is jeopardizing one of the major drives of world growth. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April lowered its global growth forecast for 2019 to 3.3 percent, down 0.3 percent from its estimation in January.

Unilaterally initiated tariff weapons by the United States is creating new disparities in the world economic structure between Washington and the rest of the world, making enterprises and emerging economies slide to a more vulnerable status in the global economy.

Giving such backdrop, the G20 leaders' summit, which came after the global financial crisis of 2008, aims to formulate guidelines and solutions to the global economy to realize development and growth with more world representatives in different categories.

However, the ongoing tariff hike intimidation by the United States, the world top economy and a G20 member, is threatening the group's multilateralism nature.

Recent WTO findings showed that trade coverage of new import-restrictive measures introduced in October 2018 to May 2019 period was more than 3.5 times the average since May 2012.

"We are seeing tensions at a very high level and they are staying there, and this is weighing down on world trade growth," warned the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo days ago.

"These findings should be of serious concern for the whole international community. We urgently need to see leadership from the G20 to ease trade tensions and follow through on their commitment to trade and to the rules-based international trading system," Azevedo said.

Major and emerging economies like China, India and Mexico and even U.S. allies in the G20 have been threatened or already hit by the U.S. tariff stick, and have been forced to defense themselves.

"The G20 was set up to deal with the global financial crisis a decade ago. Today the world is facing another major crisis. And the G20 has never been more important since its inception than it is today. Today the crisis is the threat to the global trading system and this threat is more difficult to deal with than the global financial crisis" and "it's the United States that is attacking the multilateral system," said Peter Drysdale, head of the Asian Bureau of Economic Research at the Australian National University.

The issue "diplomatically and substantially has to be dealt with in the G20. The G20 is the best hope of protecting the multilateral system on which both global prosperity and security have been built. And that's the issue on which the Osaka summit will succeed or fail," Drysdale told Xinhua.

Created in 1999, the G20 is a central forum for international cooperation on financial and economic issues. It comprises 19 countries plus the EU. The group, home to about two thirds of the world's population, accounts for more than 85 percent of gross world product and 80 percent of global trade.

Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the rule-based multilateral trading system, beneficial to world trade and global investment, is a common choice of most countries. Its collapse will be a loss of all sides and affect the global economic governance.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told reporters Monday in Malaysia that any positive move towards resolving the current trade tensions will be certainly welcome from the perspective of the global economy as trade tensions could actually have a significant impact on global growth.

"The role of G20 as a platform is very important. It provides an opportunity for these top economies to sit together and talk with each other," said Kok Khoo Phua, Founding Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Besides global economy and trade, Japan, who hosts the G20 for the first time, also listed innovation, environment and energy, employment, women's empowerment, development and health as major themes of the upcoming summit.

As the G20 is a prominent multilateral mechanism on global governance, it provides the most suitable platform to the international community to address challenges such as artificial intelligence, flow of data, climate change and other reforms in global governance.

Analysts also eye the G20 members to find ways to further transform the group from an immediate crisis management to a mechanism for establishing long-term governance, and to make the G20 on the right track of upholding multilateralism and safeguard the rules-based international order.

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