NUSA DUA, Indonesia — A showdown between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin is not happening, but the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing tensions between China and the West will be front and center when leaders of the world’s biggest economies gather in tropical Bali this week.
Members of the Group of 20 begin talks on the Indonesian resort island on Tuesday under the hopeful theme of “recover together, recover stronger”. While Putin stays on the sidelines, Biden will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and get acquainted with new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italy’s Giorgia Meloni.
The summit’s official priorities of health, sustainable energy and digital transformation risk being overshadowed by fears of a sluggish global economy and geopolitical tensions centered on the war in Ukraine.
The nearly 9-month-old conflict disrupted trade in oil, natural gas and grain, and shifted much of the summit’s focus to food and energy security.
The United States and its allies in Europe and Asia, meanwhile, are increasingly clashing with a more assertive China, leaving emerging G-20 economies like India, Brazil and Indonesia host. walking the tightrope between greater powers.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has tried to bridge divisions within the G-20 over the war in Ukraine. Widodo, also known as Jokowi, became the first Asian leader since the invasion to visit both Russia and Ukraine this summer.
He invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is not a member of the G-20, to join the summit. Zelenskyy is expected to participate online.
“One of Jokowi’s priorities is to ease the tension of war and geopolitical risk,” said Bhima Yudhistira, director of the Center for Economic and Legal Studies in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
Last year’s G-20 summit in Rome was the first in-person gathering of members since the pandemic, although the leaders of Russia and China did not attend.
This year’s event is framed by the UN climate conference in Egypt and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia, which is attended by Biden and other G-leaders. 20, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Thailand right after.
The US president pledged on Saturday to work with Southeast Asian countries, saying ‘we will build a better future that we all want to see’ in a region where China is striving to increase its influence . On Sunday, Biden met with the leaders of Japan and South Korea to discuss China and the North Korean threat.
A question looming over the Bali summit is whether Russia will agree to extend the UN Black Sea Grains Initiative, which is due for renewal on Nov. 19.
The July deal allowed Ukraine, the world’s largest grain producer, to resume exports from ports that had been largely blocked for months due to the war. Russia briefly withdrew from the deal late last month only to rejoin a few days later.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday called for more pressure on Russia to extend the deal, saying Moscow must “stop playing hunger games with the world”.
As leaders grapple with geopolitical conflict and tension, they run the risk that efforts to tame inflation will stifle post-pandemic recoveries or cause debilitating financial crises.
The repercussions of war are felt from the most remote villages of Asia and Africa to the most modern industries. It has amplified disruptions to energy supplies, shipping and food security, pushing prices higher and complicating efforts to stabilize the global economy after the upheavals of the pandemic.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urges the G-20 to provide financial assistance to the developing world.
“My priority in Bali will be to defend countries in the Global South who have been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency, and who are now facing food, energy and financial crises – exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. and crushing debt,” said António Guterres.
The International Monetary Fund predicts global growth of 2.7% in 2023, while private sector economists’ estimates are as low as 1.5%, down from around 3% this year, the slowest growth since the oil crisis. of the early 1980s.
China has remained somewhat sheltered from runaway inflation, mainly because it is struggling to reverse an economic slump that is weighing on global growth.
China’s economy, the world’s second largest, grew at a rate of 3.9% in the last quarter. But economists say activity is slowing under pressure from pandemic controls, a crackdown on tech companies and a slowing real estate sector.
Forecasters have reduced estimates of China’s annual economic growth to just 3%. That would be less than half of last year’s 8.1% and the second lowest in decades.
Chinese President Xi will arrive at the summit emboldened by his appointment to an unusual third term as party chairman, making him China’s strongest leader in decades. It is only his second trip abroad since early 2020, following a visit to Central Asia where he met Putin in September.
Biden and Xi will hold their first in-person meeting since Biden became president in January 2021 on the sidelines of the event on Monday.
The United States is at odds with China on a host of issues, including human rights, technology and the future of the self-governing island of Taiwan. The United States sees China as its biggest global competitor, and this rivalry will only grow as Beijing seeks to expand its influence in the years to come.
The European Union is also reassessing its relationship with China as it seeks to reduce its trade dependence on the country.
Biden said he plans to talk with Xi about topics including Taiwan, trade policies and Beijing’s relationship with Russia.
“What I want to do…is expose every one of our red lines,” Biden said last week.
Many developing economies are caught between battling inflation and trying to recover from the pandemic. The host Indonesia’s economy grew at a 5.7% pace in the last quarter, one of the fastest among G-20 countries.
But growth among resource exporters like Indonesia is expected to slow as falling prices for oil, coal and other commodities end the fallout from last year’s price spike.
At a time when many countries are struggling to afford to import oil, gas and food while paying down their debt, pressure is mounting on those most vulnerable to climate change to redouble their efforts. efforts to switch to more sustainable energy supplies.
In Bali, the talks are also expected to focus on finding ways to accelerate the transition to coal and other fossil fuels.
The G-20 was founded in 1999 originally as a forum to address economic challenges. It includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and European Union. . Spain holds a permanent guest seat.
Some bloc watchers, like Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Geoeconomic Center, wonder if the G-20 can even work as geopolitical divisions deepen.
“I’m skeptical of its ability to survive long-term in its current format,” he said during a briefing last week.
This makes things particularly difficult for the Indonesian host.
“It’s not the G-20 they signed up for,” Lipsky said. “The last thing they wanted was to be in the middle of this geopolitical fight, this war in Europe, and to be the crossroads of it. But that’s where they are.