Osaka G20 summit communique: A ‘work of diplomatic art’

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) shaking hands with US President Donald Trump during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. (AFP Photo / Saudi Royal Palace / Bandar Al-Jaloud)
Updated 30 June 2019

Osaka G20 summit communique: A ‘work of diplomatic art’

  • The Osaka declaration distills the views of 20-plus political leaders into a display of unanimity
  • The statement goes some way towards meeting Japan's wish to show unity and compromise

OSAKA: G20 leaders’ declarations — known as “the communique” — are precise works of diplomatic skill, knitted together painstakingly by the “sherpas” who work behind the scenes to distill the often conflicting views of 20-plus political leaders into a single cohesive display of unanimity. The risk is that they can try to satisfy so many different opinions that they end up as meaningless waffle.

The final communique issued in Osaka on Saturday went some way toward meeting the Japanese hosts’ wish to show unity and compromise, while retaining the substance of the diverging viewpoints on show at the G20. “It was a work of diplomatic art,” said a media professional at the event.

The leaders met, the communique read, “to make united efforts to address major global economic challenges. We will work together to foster global economic growth, while harnessing the power of technological innovation, in particular digitalization, and its application for the benefit of all.”
Nobody could argue with that, except that it gives no flavor of the disagreements over trade, inequality and climate change that were features of the two-day event. That came in the fine detail of the 7,000 word statement.
On the global economy, for example, the leaders observed that “growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside,” and reiterated their commitment to do everything in the policy-maker’s book to establish a “virtuous cycle” of growth.
But you had to read down to see that one big reason for the worrying global outlook was the on-off trade war between the US and China.
“We strive to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the leaders said — a position that would make the Chinese and Europeans happy.
But there had to be something too for Donald Trump’s US, which dislikes the World Trade Organization (WTO) and threatens to use tariffs as an instrument of foreign policy. “We reaffirm our support for the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functions,” the communique said in a sop to the Americans.
“We agree that action is necessary regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules as negotiated by WTO members.”
There was a similar fudge in the section on data, one of the big themes of the G20. The Europeans and Americans are all for the free flow of information across borders via the Internet; the big Asian powers are keener on security of data and citizens’ information.
“Cross-border flow of data, information, ideas and knowledge generates higher productivity, greater innovation, and improved sustainable development, while raising challenges related to privacy, data protection, intellectual property rights, and security,” the leaders agreed, but they also noted that “the value of an ongoing discussion on security in the digital economy is growing.”
Inequality — of demographics and gender — is another theme that divides the leaders, but the communique managed to please everybody with an ambitious but bland commitment to “promote decent work and reaffirm our commitment to take actions to eradicate child labor, forced labor, human trafficking and modern slavery in the world of work, including through fostering sustainable global supply chains.”
But it was perhaps the section on “realizing an inclusive and sustainable world” that had to make the most twists and turns to keep everybody happy.
It reaffirmed the global predilection for economic growth and development, but simultaneously said that growth had to be sustainable to “ensure that no one is left behind.” The communique repeated its pledges on African development and investment, as well as the promotion of global health and medical investment.


Argentina — 2018

Japan — 2019

Saudi Arabia — 2020

Italy — 2021

India — 2022

On climate change — perhaps the second most divisive issue at the G20 after trade — the sherpas had worked hard to make sure nobody stormed out in a fit of anger.
“We emphasize the importance of providing financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in accordance with the Paris Agreement,” the leaders agreed, thereby pacifying the French President Emmanuel Macron, who had threatened to refuse to sign the document unless it mentioned the Paris accords on global warming.
The Americans under Trump, of course, have said they will leave the Paris deal. So, to balance things up, the leaders included a lengthy section on how good the Americans really are on climate and the environment.
“The US’s balanced approach to energy and environment allows for the delivery of affordable, reliable, and secure energy to all its citizens while utilizing all energy sources and technologies, including clean and advanced fossil fuels and technologies, renewables, and civil nuclear power, while also reducing emissions and promoting economic growth. The United States is a world leader in reducing emissions,” the communique said.
Finally, one of the initiatives that Japan was especially proud of at the G20 was the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” to stop marine pollution, especially by the plastics industry. That got a big mention toward the end.
The sherpas will be back at their craft next year in Saudi Arabia, followed by Italy and then India.


Riyadh Agreement to “open the door” for broader peace talks on Yemen, says King Salman

Updated 27 min 13 sec ago

Riyadh Agreement to “open the door” for broader peace talks on Yemen, says King Salman

  • King Salman said the oil policy of the Kingdom is aimed at promoting market stability
  • He urged Iran to abandon an expansionist ideology that has ‘harmed’ its own people

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia seeks a political settlement in Yemen and hoped that a recent agreement signed in Riyadh would open the door to broader peace talks, King Salman said on Wednesday.
The king was speaking at an annual address to the Shoura Council.
King Salman said, “we deserve to feel proud of our nation’s success in eliminating extremist manifestations, and besieging its ideology by all means, to return to moderation, which is a characteristic of the Saudi society.”
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict in 2015, shortly after the Iran-backed Houthi militia took over the capital Sanaa.
He said the Kingdom’s oil policy aims to promote stability in global oil markets and looks to serve consumers and producers alike.
King Salman also said the initial public offering of Saudi Aramco will allow investors inside and outside the Kingdom to take part and will create thousands of jobs.
The revenues from the sale, he said, will be allocated to the country’s Public Investment Fund.
He said Aramco’s ability to quickly restore oil production capacity after attacks in September proved the Kingdom could meet global demand during any shortage.
“Though the kingdom has been subjected to attacks by 286 ballistic missiles and 289 drones, in a way that has not been seen in any other country, that has not affected the kingdom’s development process or the lives of its citizens and residents,” the king told assembled council members, royals and foreign diplomats.
In the latest attack on September 14, drone strikes targeted two Saudi oil facilities, temporarily knocking out half of the kingdom’s oil production.
The attacks were claimed by the Houthis, but Washington and Riyadh said Iran was responsible, and that the strikes were carried out with advanced missiles and drones.
King Salman also urged Iran to abandon an expansionist ideology that has “harmed” its own people, following violent street protests in the Islamic republic.
A wave of demonstrations erupted in the sanctions-hit country on Friday after an announcement that petrol prices would be raised by as much as 200 percent with immediate effect.
“We hope the Iranian regime chooses the side of wisdom and realizes there is no way to overcome the international position that rejects its practices, without abandoning its expansionist and destructive thinking that has harmed its own people,” the king told the consultative Shoura Council.
The region’s leading Shiite and Sunni powers have no diplomatic ties and are at odds over a range of issues, including the wars in Syria and Yemen.
“The kingdom has suffered from the policies and practices of the Iranian regime and its proxies,” King Salman said, quoted by the foreign ministry, reiterating that Riyadh does not seek war but is “ready to defend its people.”
Meanwhile, King Salman hailed the Kingdom’s “huge achievements” in the past decades, adding that the country is determined to record further achievements through its Vision 2030.
He also mentioned that Saudi Arabia has been ranked in 2019 by the World Bank as the “most advanced and first reformed country among 190 countries in the world.
King Salman also commended his government’s decision to grant tourist visas, describing the move as a way to attract investments, create jobs and showcase Saudi heritage and culture.
Earlier during the meeting, Dr. Abdullah Al-Asheikh reviewed the Shoura Council’s accomplishments during the third year of the seventh session.
Al-Asheikh said: “Thanks to the support of the wise leadership and the council’s cooperation with the Cabinet, ministries and governmental bodies, the council was able to achieve significant accomplishments, where it held 65 sessions and issued 262 decisions that were referred to King Salman, to serve our dear country and guarantee welfare and prosperity for our people.”