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The “Great” in Hamburg, a picture made of lights and shadows. But perhaps, without the G20, it would be worse…

Climate, trade, migrations were some of the themes addressed in Germany by the leaders of the twenty world Countries representing two thirds of world population and 80% of its GDP. While progress was made in some areas, other issues sparked off divisions and opposing interests. The – problematic – role of the United States under the Trump administration. The reflections of Antonio Villafranca, Research Coordinator at the ISPI Institute

The G20 does not always deliver outstanding results, “but without it, it would be worse.” Antonio Villafranca is the Research Coordinator at the Institute for International Political Studies in Milan.  The meeting in Hamburg of July 7-8 was attentively followed in the seat at Palazzo Clerici in Milan. What are your remarks on the results as a whole? “It depends on the expectations – the scholar replied -. Considering the complexity of the situation at international level, the manifold challenges, migration flows, the different political stands even among ex allies such as Europe and the United States, compromise solutions were to be expected. And that is what happened, although in some cases they were played at the lowest common denominator.”

Let us start with trade, one of the issues on the agenda in Hamburg. 
In this case the fact of having issued a joint statement that addresses protectionist measures can in itself be already considered a significant step. Although, on the request of the United States, it was established that some of the barriers would not be lifted. This decision underlies huge interests and major unbalances, such as the overproduction of steel by the United States. But the same applies to Germany’s present surplus production.

Perhaps climate change was the most debated issue. What progress has been made in this respect? The turn taken by the summit was expected. In fact all participants reiterated that they would continue along the path established in the Paris Accord, except for the United States, that put into writing the retrograde step on the fight on climate change.

In Hamburg Trump supported a position of principle, albeit hostage of his electoral promises.

That was clearly a decision of great import, given the fact that the United States are among the biggest CO2 producers in the world. United States withdrawal from what was agreed in Paris is an extremely negative sign. But there is also another aspect …

Which is…?
The isolated position of the United States on this issue. Trump’s disengagement remains an exception. The leadership appears to have lost its capacity to attract consensus, along with its appeal.

The question of migration. It should be said that the G20 is not the ideal place to address the issue of migration. Moreover, it was discussed as a global phenomenon, but it would have been wrong to expect an answer to the emergency situations that Italy is facing. Also the proposal of European Council President Donald Tusk to call for sanctions against trafficking in human beings falls within the province of the United Nations, not of the G20. In fact the twenty world leaders have not spoken about it. The proposal was gridlocked at Sherpa level, blocked by Russia and China.

There appears that the migratory question, firmly raised by Italy, has remained unanswered, both at the EU meeting in Tallinn and at the G20 in Hamburg. 
That’s true. Every Country tries to put the blame on somebody else. In this case that “somebody else” is Italy, at least as concerns migration from Africa into Europe through Libya.

The Heads of Government and State know that the issue of migration can make them lose votes.

Or it may benefit them – provided they ride it in a specific direction.

What do you think of the face-to-face meeting between Putin and Trump? 
It has many different meanings. Starting from the fact that it lasted two hours, while bilateral G20 meetings usually last approximately half-an-hour. Probably the two presidents wished to highlight the fact that US and Russia are the countries that guide the great decisions at global level. Furthermore, there were many issues on the table: from Syria to North Korea, from economy to climate, up to the Russiagate … As for Putin, we witnessed, in his own way, a certain degree of “realism” in political relations – at least we all know what he wants. It’s less clear what Trump is driving at.

A “global governance” is often called for in the face of present “epochal transformations.” Are we proceeding in this direction? The G20, being an extension of the G7 and the G8, has been conceived for this reason. I wish to point out that since 2008 its members have taken 1900 commitments giving concrete action to the statements of principle and to the major, jointly-agreed goals. Seventy per cent of such commitments have been fulfilled. Some areas delivered less results, for example as regards gender equality. Others registered greater progress such as the area of financial stability or the measures to combat poverty. It should be said that the latter was supported with determination by the German Presidency, with special attention devoted to the situation in Africa, supporting increased cooperation between public and private investments. Moreover, the fact that Argentina will chair the next G20 (representing two thirds of the world population and 80% of its GDP) is of great import. If anything, it would be important to review and improve the selection of items of the agenda of these summits, along with the fundamental goals needing to be pursued together.

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