Written by  //  April 3, 2019  //  Multilateralism  //  No comments

In Trump times, agreeing to disagree becomes norm at G7 meetings
(Reuters) – Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations meet on Friday in France to prepare for the leaders’ summit in August, but the absence of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underscores how tough agreeing common ground between allies has become.
Ten months after U.S. President Donald Trump threw the efforts of other leaders to show a united front into disarray by leaving early, backing out of a joint communique and criticizing his Canadian host, senior diplomats are scrambling to avoid a repeat episode.
France, which took over the rotating presidency of the group of major industrialized nations, has scaled back its ambitions, counting on minor advances in areas where consensus can be found easily, including the dangers of cyber crime for democracy and tackling inequalities between men and women.
“The idea is to avoid losing energy on texts that do not bring much, whereas what (President) Emmanuel Macron wants is that our presidency makes it possible to advance on specific topics,” said a senior French diplomat ahead of the meeting on Friday and Saturday in the Brittany seaside resort of Dinard.

21 February
When multilateralism crumbles, so does our rules-based order
Mark Medish
(The Guardian) Mike Pompeo and John Bolton have led the charge against multilateralism, but they should be careful: might can win on a given day, but it will never make right.
Since the end of the second world war, the rules-based system has been a long and imperfect work in progress. But the driving idea was that multilateral commitments to legal norms would be self-reinforcing and help to turn standards into practice. Multilateralism is a strategic bet on normative advances based on mutuality. The converse is certainly true: self-help will accelerate a collapse of shared legal standards. … One of the many signs of the decline of the rules-based order is the spate of cross-border arrests of business executives, journalists and other private citizens. These incidents are not new…but the higher frequency of detentions of business executives today is noteworthy. …
The legal merit of each case is different, but all suggest the tactical use of judicial powers to gain foreign policy or other leverage. The message seems to be, if you want the upper hand in a bilateral negotiation, go arrest that foreigner! Private citizens working across borders should take notice of what was once a more remote risk – becoming a pawn in a geopolitical game.


G20 Argentina 2018

Diversity, People, Sustainable Development: Pillars of the Argentine G20 presidency
Argentina assumes G20 presidency
The G20 is the premier global forum for economic and political cooperation.
Throughout 2018, Argentina will welcome some 20,000 G20 participants to its shores,
and host the Leaders’ Summit from 30 November 2018 to 1 December 2018

1-2 December
G20 sealed landmark deal on WTO reform by ducking ‘taboo words’
(Reuters) “A number of words that we used to have always in G7 and G20 summit communiques became kind of taboos,” a European official said on Saturday in the midst of the negotiations. “We have American taboos and Chinese taboos.”
First among those taboos is “protectionism”. The U.S. administration has become sensitive to criticisms after President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs not only on $250 billion of Chinese goods but also on steel and aluminum imports that hit several of his G20 partners.
China, meanwhile, steadfastly opposed the inclusion of the usual calls for “fair trade practices,” delegates said. Beijing rejects criticisms from the United States, Europe and Japan for dumping, industrial subsidies, abuse of intellectual property rights and technology transfers, amongst other practices.
Even the word “multilateralism” itself has fallen out of favor in a group designed to foster international cooperation.
Mark MacKinnon: A trio of unrepentant global disruptors leaves its mark on G20 summit
(Globe & Mail) This is what success looks like these days for a major multinational institution: The G20 summit in Argentina ended on Saturday with exhalations of relief simply because no one walked away from the meeting, and a joint communiqué was signed by everyone.
It was easy to overlook that the agreed statement was thin gruel, and that it contained an abstention from the United States – the world’s biggest economy and second-biggest polluter – on the critical issue of combatting climate change. Comfort was found in the fact the world didn’t appear to have gotten any worse during the 48 hours the G20 leaders were gathered in Buenos Aires. In the era of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman – a trio of global disruption – that’s an accomplishment.
… The ruthless actions of Mr. Putin and the Crown Prince have come to define the lawlessness and global disorder that has emerged as multilateral institutions such as the G7, the G20, the United Nations and the International Criminal Court have lost clout … As with Mr. Putin, there were no real repercussions for the Crown Prince in Buenos Aires. Again, the opposite happened. At the end of the meeting, it was confirmed Saudi Arabia would host the 2020 summit of an organization that could by then be in even greater crisis.
G20 leaders reaffirm ‘rules-based international order’
With Trump upending traditional diplomacy, text lets EU claim small victory
By David M. Herszenhorn
(Politico Eu) G20 leaders on Saturday adopted a joint communiqué reaffirming their commitment to “a rules-based international order” — a small, symbolic victory for stability in an era when U.S. President Donald Trump has upended traditional diplomacy by instigating trade wars and employing aggressive protectionist policies and rhetoric.
At the same time, the statement by leaders at their annual summit included an awkward line — “We also note current trade issues” — that was a nod to Trump’s continuing fury at an international trading system that he insists has long taken unfair advantage of the United States, the world’s richest country.
The world makes room for Trump
The G-20 illustrates global philosophy in Trump era: Everybody plus one.
(Politico) Donald Trump has issues. And the team of G-20 “sherpas” negotiating the joint statement to sum up the annual leaders’ summit were more than happy to take note of them if it meant the explosive American president wouldn’t blow up their work.
One of Trump’s issues is the multilateral trading system that most other G-20 leaders cherish, but that he believes has long allowed other countries to take advantage of the United States.
Nearly two years into a world reordered by Trump, the globe has readjusted. Leaders of other major economic powers have learned — and accepted — they will not succeed in shifting Trump’s views either by logical argument or by charm. So their goal is to agree to disagree, to avoid taking offense even when Trump is offensive. In other words, the best way to protect the multilateral system is to let the Big Guy go his own way, even as they keep him at the table. That’s what they did in Buenos Aires. And the G-20 lives on to reconvene in Osaka in 2019.
Early in his presidency, Trump openly groused about having to attend international summits. But White House aides said Trump has grown more confident on the world stage in recent months, having built relationships with foreign leaders and beefed up his knowledge of policy issues. Administration officials have followed suit, as they’ve learned how to go toe-to-toe with negotiators from other countries.
Similarly, world leaders and their top deputies have learned how to live with Trump. Gone are the days when the U.S. president’s unorthodox foreign policy pronouncements prompted panic. Instead, foreign officials now remain calm, focus on areas of agreement and — most importantly — try find ways to get on Trump’s good side.
(Bloomberg Politics) It was, as one weary negotiator observed, better than nothing.
After a week of wrangling over wording by their “sherpas,” the Group of 20 leaders meeting in Argentina issued a statement saying the system of rules underpinning global trade since World War II is flawed and needs changing. For the first time, they didn’t mention the risk of protectionism – even as, arguably, such behavior is on the rise. And they agreed to “reform” the World Trade Organization.
The priorities of U.S. President Donald Trump were felt throughout the document, and indeed senior White House officials were quick to praise it. But in rushing to avoid a repeat of other recent summits, which saw communiques either ripped up or not accepted at all, countries may have only served to weaken the G-20 as a whole.
Tricky issues (Ukraine, the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi) were left out entirely. On climate change, signatories to the Paris climate accord reaffirmed it as irreversible. On the very next line, the U.S. inserted language explaining Trump’s decision to withdraw from the pact.
While the document staved off an immediate disaster, the risk is that future summits will value settling on a statement over addressing key challenges such as unilateralism, trade wars and a warming planet.
Rosalind Mathieson

G20 agreement backs ‘rules-based’ order but bows to Trump on trade reforms

23 July
Danielle Allen: Trump’s foreign policy is perfectly coherent
(WaPost opinion) Trump’s foreign policy doctrine has been staring us in the face so plainly that we’ve overlooked it. Here’s my unifying theory: He didn’t get out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal because he disagreed with this or that detail of the agreements. He hasn’t started up deals with Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin and sought to force Xi Jinping to the bargaining table because he has refined views of what he seeks. He got out of the former deals because they were multilateral; he’s working on the latter deals because they are bilateral.

20 July
Kemal Derviş: Can Multilateralism Survive?
In today’s deeply interconnected world, we need rules and institutions to govern markets and economic activity more than ever. Yet multilateralism is under increasing strain, and the lack of a clear and consistent means for assessing changing global power dynamics is not helping.
(Project Syndicate) … the world is entering the next decade in a kind of bipolar state, strongly dominated by the US and China. If the EU is treated as a single power – including by its own members (say, by pursuing common policies) – it could represent a third pole. India, whose GDP is now growing at nearly 8% annually, could eventually comprise a fourth, but it has some way to go.
An international order that rests on three and a half legs does not quite live up to the multipolar hype. This holds important implications for efforts to . In particular, because the world is not quite multipolar, it is not structurally as conducive to a multipolar multilateralism as many have assumed. To survive, multilateralism will need the support of the big players.
Many have been hoping that China would put its weight behind a multilateral world order, but China’s leaders seem prepared to use multilateral structures only when it suits them. The EU, for its part, clearly has a strong multilateral bent, but it is weakened by internal divisions. If it were to overcome them, it could be the champion of multilateralism we need; for now, however, it is too divided. India could become an important advocate of multilateralism, but it is currently pursuing unilateral policies and still lacks the requisite international influence.

18 July
Carl Bildt: The End of NATO?
US President Donald Trump escalated his war on US alliances and multilateral institutions at NATO’s summit in Brussels and then at his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. There is now little doubt that Trump’s strange affinity for Putin represents a serious threat to European security.
(Project Syndicate) Russia’s advantages over NATO have less to do with resources than with command and control. As a single country, Russia’s military forces are more integrated, and can be deployed more quickly in pursuit of strategic directives from the Kremlin. Such nimbleness was amply demonstrated in Crimea in 2014 and in Syria the following year.
For its part, NATO does have a deeply integrated command structure for the forces that are assigned to it. But that hardly matters if political decisions to deploy forces or launch operations are not taken in time. In any military confrontation, unity of will and the speed of high-level decision-making determine the outcome.
The problem is that while NATO’s military capacity is actually improving, its political decision-making capacity is deteriorating. Imagine what would happen if a NATO member state sounded the alarm about Russia launching a secretive Crimea-style military operation within its borders. Then, imagine that US intelligence agencies confirmed that an act of aggression was indeed underway, despite Putin’s denials.
Finally, imagine how Trump might respond. Would he call Putin to ask what’s going on? … Would Trump quickly invoke the principle of collective defense under Article 5 of the NATO treaty? Or would he hesitate, question the intelligence, belittle US allies, and validate Putin’s denials?

13 July
America First, America Hated, America Alone
Trump intends to bring about the collapse of the liberal international order, in its commitment to open societies and its institutions.
By Bret Stephens
(NYT) For Trump, the upside is the substitution of a liberal order with an illiberal one, based on conceits about sovereignty, nationality, religion and ethnicity. These are the same conceits that Vladimir Putin has long made his own, which helps explain Trump’s affinity for his Russian counterpart and his distress that Robert Mueller’s investigation “really hurts our relationship with Russia,” as he remarked Friday.
It also explains his undisguised contempt for contemporary European democracy and his efforts to replace it with something more Trumpian: xenophobic, protectionist and truculent. This is the Europe of Germany’s Alexander Gauland, France’s Marine Le Pen, Britain’s Nigel Farage, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Italy’s Matteo Salvini. Note that the last three are already in power. …
This will suit Americans for whom the idea of a free world always seemed like a distant abstraction. It will suit Europeans whose anti-Americanism predates Trump’s arrival by decades. And it will especially suit Putin, who knows that an America that stands for its own interests first also stands, and falls, alone.

10 July
Senate votes to support NATO as Trump’s European summit begins
(Axios) In a bipartisan rebuke to President Trump, the Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a non-binding motion in support of NATO.
Why it matters: The symbolic 97-2 vote came as Trump, who is in Brussels for a summit with NATO allies, continues to lambast the alliance over what he labeled as their lack of commitment in defense spending. Rand Paul and Mike Lee voted against the measure.

29 June
Institutions are under existential threat, globally
(Brookings) It is wishful thinking to believe the United Nations will reform itself or to expect the U.S. income tax code to be substantially simplified—in the foreseeable future and in the absence of a crisis. The best we can do is to start experimenting with new forms of institutions and build on those that look promising.

Jean Pisani-Ferry: Can Multilateralism Adapt?
Global governance requires rules, because flexibility and goodwill alone cannot tackle the hardest shared problems. With multilateralism under attack, the narrow path ahead is to determine, on a case-by-case basis, the minimum requirements of effective collective action, and to forge agreement on reforms that fulfill these conditions.
(Project Syndicate) many participants in the international system are having second thoughts about globalization. A widespread perception in advanced countries is that the rents from technological innovation are being eroded precipitously. The US factory worker of yesterday owed his standard of living to these rents. But as the economist Richard Baldwin brilliantly shows in The Great Convergence, technology has become more accessible, production processes have been segmented, and many of the rents have gone.
A second explanation is that the US strategy toward Russia and China has failed. In the 1990s, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton thought that the international order would help transform Russia and China into “market democracies.” But neither Russia nor China has converged politically.
Third, the US is unsure that a rules-based system offers the best framework to manage its rivalry with China. True, a multilateral system may help the incumbent hegemon and the rising power avoid falling into the so-called “Thucydides’ trap” of military confrontation. But the growing perception in the US is that multilateralism puts more constraints on its own behavior than on China’s.
Finally, global rules look increasingly outdated. Whereas some of their underlying principles – starting with the simple idea that issues are addressed multilaterally rather than bilaterally – are as strong as ever, others were conceived for a world that no longer exists.

22 June
Reclaiming Multilateralism
By Dennis J. Snower, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and Professor of Economics at the Christian-Albrechts Universität zu Kiel
Since the dawn of civilization, humankind has gradually formed ever-larger cooperative networks, first by changing minds, and then by changing institutions. But with nationalist forces around the world threatening to reverse that progress, proponents of multilateralism will need to show why international cooperation is not just valuable, but necessary.
(Project Syndicate) In country after country, populists are beckoning voters to pursue atavistic dreams of national glory and abandon international commitments and multilateral cooperation. This is the age of “America first,” “Take back control,” and “Hungary belongs to the Hungarians” – to cite just a few of the slogans one hears nowadays.
Yet, when it comes to global problems, there can be no alternative to cooperation. Without it, we will all be at the mercy of cyber conflicts, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation. We will be buffeted by the spillover effects of financial crises, failed states, pandemics, and massive involuntary migrations. And we will have to learn to live with water and food crises, increasingly catastrophic weather events, and ecosystem collapse.
The question, then, is how to save multilateralism from populist forces. In fact, while multilateralism certainly appears to be on a collision course with nationalism, the two are not necessarily incompatible. The task for multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the G20 is to bring them into a complementary alignment.

21 June
Strong multilateral institutions key to tackling world’s dramatic challenges, UN chief says In Moscow
(UN News) In Moscow on Thursday, Secretary-General António Guterres said multilateralism was vital to tackling climate change, terrorism and other dramatic challenges, and that the United Nations and Russia would continue working together to make global institutions stronger and better able to serve the public good.

15 June
Consensus reached at G20 energy ministerial meeting
At the end of the G20 Meeting of Energy Ministers, representatives of the troika (Germany, Argentina and Japan) announced that consensus had been reached and a communiqué agreed upon. The G20 affirmed the group’s commitment to energy transitions that move towards cleaner, more flexible and transparent systems.

18 May
Is Multilateralism Finished?
By Zaki Laïdi
Although Donald Trump certainly deserves blame for disrupting global trade and security arrangements, the roots of today’s crisis of multilateralism run deeper than his presidency. As new powers emerge to rival the United States, the world should prepare for a future in which global cooperation is no longer an option.
(Project Syndicate) … after more than a year of Trump’s presidency, it has become increasingly clear that the malicious aspersions he cast on the international system are capable of drawing blood.
Trump from the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as one of his first official acts in office, and he America’s participation in the Paris climate agreement not long thereafter. Meanwhile, his administration has launched unprecedented attacks on the World Trade Organization, by accusing it of infringing upon American sovereignty, and by the appointment of judges to its Appellate Body.
In another rebuke to the WTO this spring, the Trump administration announced sweeping import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum, the costs of which will fall largely on and Japan, owing to exemptions that have been granted to other countries. The Trump administration is also to impose additional tariffs on $100 billion worth of Chinese goods. And, in an episode reminiscent of the colonial era, it is pressuring China to drop its complaints against the United States at the WTO without a reciprocal commitment. …
Though Trump is unprecedented in American political history, it would be a mistake to assume that the end of his presidency will usher in a renaissance of multilateralism. The fact is that many of the factors behind today’s crisis of multilateralism predate Trump and will persist long after he is gone. Multilateralism is faltering at the precise moment that the international order is becoming more multipolar. The question we should be asking, then, is whether multilateralism and multipolarity are compatible.

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