French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron, President Donald Trump as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak before a working session at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Every time since the G-20 summits started in 1999, a sense of optimism emerges about how these meetings could find the way out for the many problems prevailing in the world. Unfortunately, the latest coming together of leaders of the most developed and developing nations in Osaka, Japan, has not been able to contribute effectively in mitigating complex issues.

This is mainly due to the wide divergence of interests and positions among the countries on the main issues listed on the agenda. This includes the highly polarised views on climate change. The US welcomed the proposals to take action on climate change when Democrat Bill Clinton was president but changed its stance during the era of Republican George W. Bush.

The latest gathering discussed important issues that are quite different in tone and content from those of 20 years ago, due to the rapid development of communications in a digital economy and the opening up of global trade.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan, who hosted the summit, said: “We are happy to announce the launch of Osaka Track, an overarching framework promoting cross-border data flow with enhanced protections and electronic commerce”.

US President Donald Trump pointed out that “the free flow of data is the basis for the success of the digital economy”, while adding, “We are seeking a future that will benefit all the people of the world from the digital economy.”

Although the agenda included other key issues such as energy, environment, climate, trade, health and education, the digital economy and trade captured the greatest attention.

This is due to uncompromising differences between the two largest economies — the US and China — on the use of 5G and the resultant conflict between US companies and China’s Huawei, which has suffered from US sanctions.

However, Trump decided to partially lift the sanctions on Huawei after his meeting with the Chinese president on the sidelines of the G20 summit, which led to an easing of the trade war. Such conflicts don’t come out of a vacuum.

Those who control 5G networks will be able to control many means of communication, commerce and financial transactions. This will result in access to sensitive economic, security and strategic issues, which means it is not easy to find solutions to the issues raised at the G-20 meet.

The statements issued by world leaders differ from reality when it comes to this conflict. It is difficult to be optimistic about achieving what has been agreed upon. The meeting between the US and Chinese presidents has not been able to resolve all pending trade issues, including the dispute over 5G technologies.

This comes at a time when the US is trying to press various countries to curb the dominance of Huawei equipment, which are relatively cheap and yet sophisticated.

In addition, the disparities in opinions and stances on political and military conflicts going on in Iran, Syria and Ukraine, and the Palestinian cause limit cooperation in the economic and trade fields. For example, the Chinese foreign minister says, “protectionism and bullying threaten the world order”, referring to US measures on customs duties and economic sanctions.

It is true that the G-20, whose member states account for 80 per cent of the global economy, can achieve many successes through its regular work and summits. However, things are not moving in the right direction.

Conflicts of interest are growing among the countries. This means the world needs a long time to make a quantum leap in cooperation and help achieve the goals regularly announced at G-20 and other international meetings.