G20 Virtual Summit | Experts bemoan missed opportunity - The Canadian
Tuesday, December 1

G20 Virtual Summit | Experts bemoan missed opportunity

(Ottawa) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined leaders of the richest 20 countries in the world on Sunday in a pledge to work together to keep trade flowing, combat global warming, and supply poor countries with vaccines against COVID-19.

Lee berthiaume
The Canadian Press

These commitments are contained in the final declaration of the G20 leaders, at the end of two days of virtual discussions largely held behind closed doors and focusing mainly on the coordination of an international response to the pandemic.

But most of the promises made on Sunday are nothing new, and experts lament a missed opportunity to address the biggest challenges the world now faces.

These commitments do not come with new investments and the declaration makes no mention of human rights, while the summit was chaired by Saudi Arabia.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Trudeau nonetheless raised the issue with his counterparts, as did those of climate change, free trade, equitable access to vaccines and other aid measures against COVID-19.

“It is only together that we can overcome the greatest challenges of today and tomorrow and create a more resilient world that benefits everyone,” he said in his statement.

“The Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit provided an opportunity to step up global efforts to fight COVID-19, restore economic growth and combat climate change. ”

If the summit were to mark the start of a new era of international cooperation, more than a decade after the group first met in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the outcome of the meeting was quite clear. other, according to experts.

“Often in these events and press releases, we can identify five or six elements where there has been some notable progress,” said retired Canadian diplomat Thomas Bernes of the Center for International Governance Innovation.

“Unfortunately this time around it’s a missed opportunity for the world. ”

Mr. Trudeau was looking for strong commitments to support medically poor countries, especially with regard to the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. He also intended to stress the importance of fighting protectionism and climate change.

The Prime Minister took part on Sunday morning in a discussion on saving the planet and the approach known as the circular carbon economy. However, he did not deliver a speech.

Several leaders spoke during the event, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump, who is widely criticized for his environmental record, insisted that his administration had worked tirelessly to improve air and water quality.

“To protect American workers, I pulled the United States out of the unfair and unilateral Paris climate agreement,” he said. The Paris agreement was not designed to save the environment, it was designed to kill the American economy. ”

The world’s most powerful leaders have had to settle for meeting virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The discussions on Saturday also focused mainly on the management of the pandemic, and on ways to get out of the crisis.

While Canada has allocated $ 440,000 for an international program to ensure equitable access to a possible vaccine against COVID-19, observers hoped that other member countries would put another US $ 4.5 billion on the table.

Their hopes did not materialize, laments John Kirton, co-director of the G20 research group at the University of Toronto.

MM. Kirton and Bernes attribute the lack of ambition and lack of progress to the fact that the summit took place virtually, which took away from the energetic vibe and spontaneity that usually characterize it, with several discussions going on. behind the scenes.

The fact that the summit was chaired by Saudi Arabia, which is not accustomed to hosting such meetings, and that the United States was represented by defeated President Donald Trump, also helped make it a ‘no -event ”, according to Mr. Bernes.

Although Mr Kirton sees Donald Trump’s participation, the imminent assumption of Joe Biden’s office and the arrival of Italy as President of the G20 as reasons for optimism about the relevance of the organization, Mr. Bernes believes that the failure of this weekend is a blow to international cooperation.


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