G20 is losing its focus, purpose
The Hangzhou communique had more generalities like the need for sustainable and inclusive development, creation of jobs and reduction of inequalities than any specific idea or action plan. The fact that bilateral meetings among leaders attracted more attention than the proceedings of the summit showed the change in the nature of the group and the shift in the members’ concerns. Many of the issues which were raised at the summit, mentioned in the communique or discussed between leaders were predominantly bilateral or regional. India’s concerns about China’s economic corridor in Pakistan, the worries of some countries over the Chinese position on South China Sea and the importance the US gives to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership are all indicative of emerging priorities. Ironically, China is now more worried about the rise in protectionist tendencies than the US, which is the acknowledged champion of free trade and free markets.
An important event was the ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by the US and China, the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. India and many other countries, which have some concerns about the agreement, are yet to ratify it. The grouping can be a forum for guidance and action on this. There was agreement at the summit that terrorism and tax evasion needed to be fought collectively. Both issues are of interest to India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made special mention of them. However, at the end, the indications from Hangzhou are that there is a creeping retreat from multilateralism and an increasing tendency among nations to look at their own needs and problems in isolation from those of the international community. That has weakened the G20 bonding and may not help anyone when the next crisis happens.