Date
15 December 2018
Argentina's President Mauricio Macri and the G20 leaders attend a plenary session at a summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina over the weekend. Photo: Handout via Reuters
Argentina's President Mauricio Macri and the G20 leaders attend a plenary session at a summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina over the weekend. Photo: Handout via Reuters

G20 leaders back reform of WTO

The Group of 20 industrialized nations backed an overhaul of the World Trade Organization (WTO) following a summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, marking a victory for US President Donald Trump.

In a communique issued on Saturday after a two-day summit, leaders of the world’s largest economic powers recognized trade as an important engine of global growth but made only a passing reference to “the current trade issues,” Reuters reports.

“Notwithstanding our differences, we have been able to agree a path forward at the G20,” French President Emanuel Macron was quoted as saying a news conference. “The United States has endorsed a clear multilateralist text.”

In addition to tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the US this year. Numerous countries have filed litigation at the WTO to contest the levies.

Washington is unhappy with what it says is the WTO’s failure to hold Beijing to account for not opening up its economy as envisioned when China joined the body in 2001.

To force reform at the WTO, the United States has blocked new appointments to the world’s top trade court. The European Union is also pushing for reform at the WTO.

While there was agreement on the need for WTO reforms, the US however once again marked its differences with the rest of the G20 on the issue if climate change, as it reiterated its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and its commitment to using all energy sources.

The other members of the group reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Paris deal and tackle climate change, taking into account their national circumstances and relative capabilities.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that high debt accumulated by emerging market nations is a pressing concern.

“There is an urgent need to de-escalate trade tensions, reverse recent tariff increases and modernize the rules-based multilateral trade system,” she said.

Reuters quoted G20 delegates as saying that negotiations on the final summit statement proceeded more smoothly than at a meeting of Asian leaders two weeks earlier, where disagreements on protectionism and unfair trading practices prevented a consensus.

European officials said a reference to refugees and migration — a sensitive issue for the Trump administration — was excised to ensure consensus.

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RC

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