The G20… Behind Closed Doors

World leaders have gathered in Osaka, Japan for the latest G20 summit meeting. Where did the G20 come from, what purpose does it serve, and why should anyone care about it?

What's the G20? Thirty years ago, the G7 group of industrialized nations—the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Canada—accounted for almost 70 percent of the global economy, giving them hefty international influence. But by 2008, that number had fallen to just over 50%, and when the global financial crisis hit, it was clear that big new players like China, India, and others had to be included in talks over what to do about it.

Enter the G20, which includes the G7 plus China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Argentina, Australia, South Korea, South Africa, Russia, Mexico, and a representative of the European Union. This group now accounts for 80% of global GDP and two-thirds of the world's population.

What's the G20 good for? The G20 produced a unified response to the financial crisis, but only because it threatened all of these countries at the same time. Since then, the group hasn't accomplished much of anything that demands compromise and shared sacrifice. It's hard to get 20 negotiators to agree on anything, but particularly when key players like China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia don't have the same political values as the US, the Europeans, and Japan.

So does this summit matter? Yes. Even if the larger G20 summit meeting accomplishes little else, the event will serve one very important purpose: it will give world leaders a chance to meet on the sidelines to talk through important questions in less formal settings. Not surprisingly, there are lots of people who want face-time with Donald Trump.

The main event: The most anticipated moment of the Osaka summit is the expected Saturday meeting between Trump and China's President Xi Jinping. The US-China trade war continues, and finance officials and economists warn that it's beginning to undermine the entire global economy.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said this week that the two sides are 90% of the way to a deal, but China reportedly has a list of specific demands -- including the lifting of US sanctions on Chinese tech giant Huawei -- that they want met before anybody signs anything. Trump hasn't yet indicated how he feels about that.

In short, the world is watching and hoping for a trade war truce, if not a deal to end it altogether. We'll find out over the weekend whether things are moving in that direction.

The under card: That's not Trump's only noteworthy meeting. In the past few hours he's met with…

  • Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel to talk about trade, energy security, Iran, and Trump's view that Germany is free-riding on US security guarantees…
  • Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss a US-Japan trade agreement that Abe doesn't really want and Trump's view that the US does more for Japan than Japan does for the US….
  • India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss Indian tariffs on US products…
  • Abe and Modi in a trilateral meeting to talk about strengthening security ties among democracies in Asia in response to China's expanding influence…
And on Saturday, in addition to the highly awaited Xi-Trump meeting, the US president will also meet with...
  • Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over breakfast to talk about Iran and global oil prices, but probably not the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
  • Turkey's President Recep Erdogan to talk about trade and Turkey's plan to buy Russian-made missiles, which would trigger US sanctions…

Bottom line: You can ignore the choreographed group photos and empty joint statements, but the private meetings behind closed doors are genuinely important. That alone makes the G20 worth watching.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.

"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.