G-20 summit kicks off with U.S.-China trade tensions escalating

Leaders from the Group of 20 major economies on Friday kicked off a two-day summit in Buenos Aires amid mounting concern that a U.S.-China trade war would take a toll on the world economy with private spending and investment shrinking across the globe.

The focus is on whether the G-20 countries can agree on a joint communique, as the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, have been engaged in tit-for-tat rounds of punitive tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s imports.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit earlier this month, the 21-member leaders failed to finalize a joint declaration for the first time since the forum began in 1993, against a backdrop of the deepening divide between Washington and Beijing.

If the G-20 summit also fell short of adopting a joint communique for the first time since its inception in 2008, skepticism would grow about the ability of the current international framework to find common ground, blurring the outlook for the global economy.

On the sidelines of the G-20 gathering, designed to concentrate on fiscal and monetary policy matters, U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are slated to hold their first face-to-face talks since November 2017.

At the outset of his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Buenos Aires on Friday, Trump voiced optimism about the prospects of the planned U.S.-China summit, saying, «We’re working very hard.»

«If we can make a deal, that’d be good. I think they want to, I think we’d like to,» Trump told Abe, adding, «There’s some good signs. We’ll see what happens.»

Citing U.S. and Chinese officials, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the two sides are considering launching new talks looking at «big changes» in Chinese economic policy in return for Washington holding off on further tariffs through the spring.

Speculation, however, is rife that the two leaders will not easily make concessions over trade issues, as Trump has continued his threats to take additional measures against China despite Xi’s eagerness to resolve the ongoing trade dispute through dialogue.

So far, the United States has imposed tariffs on $ 250 billion of Chinese imports — or about half the goods it imports from China each year — in response to Beijing’s alleged theft of intellectual property and technology, as well as other trade complaints.

In retaliation, China has levied tariffs on more than 80 percent of all goods imported from the United States.

Criticism, meanwhile, has been lingering among the international community about Beijing’s alleged unfair business practices. China has also been lambasted by many G-20 countries for providing opaque benefits to state-owned firms.

At the G-20 summit, the leaders are expected to exchange views on other risks to the world economy, including the slowdown of the Chinese economy, and U.S. monetary policy normalization that could trigger an outflow of capital from emerging markets.

Foreign exchange policy may crop up, too, as Washington has expressed discontent with the recent depreciation of the yuan giving an advantage to Chinese exports.

Some G-20 leaders may raise issues at the summit such as Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and Britain’s progress toward an agreement to leave the European Union, according to diplomatic sources.

The G-20 groups Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

All — Kyodo News+

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