TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul17/06)
11 July 2017
Third World Network
Existential challenges to multilateralism dominate G20 summit meet
Published in SUNS #8498 10 July 2017
Hamburg, 7 Jul (D. Ravi Kanth) - As the G20 leaders began their stormy meeting
amid violent protests on the streets of Hamburg, serious existential challenges
continued to dominate the meeting, particularly on the uninterrupted multilateral
trade liberalization under the auspices of the World Trade Organization,
according to participants present at the meeting.
In less than one year from Hangzhou to Hamburg, there has been a sea change in
the overall mood and collective resolve of G20 countries that include 19
industrialized and developing countries and the European Union.
Last year, the G20 leaders called for "growth" to be reinforced by
"inclusive, robust and sustainable trade and investment growth."
They established the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG) for
strengthening "G20 trade and investment cooperation."
The Hangzhou communique of G20 leaders issued on 5 September 2016 reaffirmed
their "determination to ensure a rules-based, transparent,
non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system with the
World Trade Organization playing the central role in today's global
They had also committed "to shape the post-Nairobi work with development
at the center and commit to advancing negotiations on the remaining DDA issues
as a matter of priority, including all three pillars of agriculture (i.e.
market access, domestic support, and export competition), non-agricultural
market access, services, development, Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS) and rules."
The G20 leaders had also called for discussing new issues as well as
plurilateral agreements. It had mentioned about the plurilateral agreement on
But the Hangzhou priorities were nearly drowned after President Donald Trump
began withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, TISA - Trade in
Services Agreement - negotiations, and the Paris climate change agreement among
"There are "ugly" fights among the Sherpas in negotiating the
trade agenda at Hamburg," said a participant familiar with the
"The US is posing difficulties in finalizing the trade agenda," the
Sherpa from an industrialized country told the SUNS.
The G20 leaders are expected to discuss trade in the afternoon but the
discussion could prove to be quite contentious between the US President Donald
Trump on the one side, and the rest of the dominant G20 members - China,
Germany, Australia, Japan, and other countries - on the other over the continued
primacy for multilateral trade liberalization with the WTO playing the central
role, the Sherpa said.
President Trump met with the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday during
which they tried to reconcile some of their differences over trade and climate
Separately, during a working session with heads of international organizations,
Merkel urged the participants, "to strike compromises without bending
backwards", emphasizing the importance of global trade, climate change,
and energy policies.
The Sherpas are working on a watered-down communique.
During a meeting of the leaders of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and
South Africa) today in Hamburg, a common position was adopted against
The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi "advocated collective voice
against the practices of protectionism, especially in the spheres of trade and
movement of knowledge and professionals," according to a press release
issued by New Delhi.
With the Trump administration on the brink of imposing 20% tariff on imports of
steel and other products from China, Germany, Canada, and other countries on
security grounds by using an archaic 1962 US provision of Section 232
investigations, the G20 leaders' meeting is mired in unprecedented differences,
said another G20 Sherpa.
According to a report in the Financial Times today, the "EU officials have
begun assembling a list of US goods including Kentucky bourbon whiskey, orange
juice and dairy products to target for retaliation over Donald Trump's plans to
invoke national security concerns to limit steel imports."
"The EU's contingency plans, which have emerged as Mr Trump and other
leaders gather at a G20 summit starting on Friday, highlight the tensions set
off by the US president's threat to impose new tariffs or quotas on steel -
which analysts say could provoke a new trade war," the FT said.
Another area where serious differences continue to persist among G20 leaders is
on the way forward on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is not clear
when the G20 leaders will discuss climate change today.
Meanwhile, protests continued to mount in different parts of Hamburg under the
banner of "Welcome to Hell".
Hamburg, which is known as the bastion for left politics, should not have been
the venue for a "dystopian" nightmare of globalization policies, said
German police resorted to strong-arm tactics, including water cannon and pepper
spray to disperse protesters, according to reports in the local media.
In short, the Hamburg meeting will indicate whether a consensus is possible on
multilateral trade liberalization as well as the fate of globalization.
A watered-down communique from Hamburg might postpone the divisions that are
staring in the face of multilateral initiatives on trade and climate change for
the time being.