Eight things to watch as world leaders meet in Bali


(Bloomberg) – Group of 20-nation summits invariably come with at least one searing crisis, which shapes discussions both in the boardroom and one-on-one caucuses in the hallways.

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Leaders tend to gather around kindred spirits. Sometimes they gang up on a particular leader – think of the Russian president in 2014 (after the annexation of Crimea) or the Saudi crown prince in 2018 (after the murder of critic Jamal Khashoggi).

This week’s summit on the tropical Indonesian island of Bali will be anything but windy. In fact, this could be the most sensitive G-20 meeting yet. This comes against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine, growing confrontation between the United States and China, and tensions over oil supplies between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Here are eight things to watch for at the start of the meeting:

A reduced Russian presence

President Vladimir Putin skips the summit, which comes with his war in Ukraine in its ninth month. His troops are bogged down (and in places like Kherson in the south they have retreated). Its economy is under heavy sanctions. US President Joe Biden is among the leaders who have said they would struggle to be in the same room as him.

He’s certainly unlikely to get even the lukewarm reception he received in Australia in 2014 (where then-Canadian leader Stephen Harper told Putin he would shake his hand, but ” you have to leave Ukraine,” while host Tony Abbott had previously threatened to “shirt” the Russian president.)

This time around, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is taking the blame. But it will be awkward whether Putin is there or not. Lavrov could join the leaders in some sessions. And does he take part in a traditional “family photo” or a gala dinner?

Joe Biden meets Xi Jinping

The presidents of the world’s two largest economies are due to meet in Bali on Monday afternoon. It’s their first face-to-face conversation since Biden took office. It comes shortly after Xi secured a third five-year term that saw him coalesce into power within the Communist Party, and after Biden’s Democrats did better than expected in the midterm congressional elections. .

Tensions between the two countries are high – over trade policies, technology, market access, China’s actions in Taiwan and Hong Kong and the fact that Xi has avoided direct condemnation from Putin for his invasion of China. Ukraine in February.

Yet the importance of China and the United States to each other as export markets has diminished somewhat in recent years, tariffs, tensions and the diversion of trade to other countries. other countries that weighed on bilateral trade. And they have reason to reset some safeguards on the relationship, perhaps focusing on shared interests like tackling climate change and preventing the use of nuclear weapons, especially by Russia. in Ukraine.

Ukrainian cereals and Russian oil price caps

July’s agreement to have Ukrainian grain move again from the country’s ports was a breakthrough in helping the world’s poorest countries cope with food shortages and contain global inflation. Last month Putin briefly backed out of the deal after an attack on his Black Sea Fleet, only to be persuaded by Turkey.

Either way, the deal is up for renewal on November 19, so time is running out. Even if Putin balks at an extension, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations could choose to allow the ships to continue coming and going. But shipping companies may decide that the risks are too great and the insurance costs too high.

Meanwhile, the Group of Seven leaders are still scrambling to finalize a planned cap on the price of Russian oil exports, needing to convince other countries to back at least a cap in principle in their price negotiations with Moscow.

Read more: A missile has shaken Ukraine’s grain trade. Another could kill him

Tensions between groups within the G-20

Putin’s war has exacerbated the rift between the major economies that make up the G-7 – including the US, UK, Germany and France – and what is often referred to as the “Global South”. – less developed nations with fewer tools at hand to counter food and energy shortages, the ravages of climate change and poverty.

This split will fully appear in Bali. There is a sense of resentment from some quarters over what they see as a lack of support from major states to counter these challenges. And to be pushed to align with the sanctions against Russia, or the limits on the purchases of its energy. This more broadly reflects an increasingly multipolar world where alliances are shifting around China as well as the United States, and on a more regional basis around countries like Saudi Arabia.

The Deep Freeze between Saudi Arabia and the United States

Don’t expect to see Biden in a cozy conversation with Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Their countries have been trading insults for weeks after Riyadh used its influence at OPEC+ to cut oil production. This is despite Biden visiting the Kingdom in July in a bid to seek Prince Mohammed’s help in tempering oil prices at a time when gasoline prices in the United States were on the rise.

The White House has accused Saudi Arabia of coercing other OPEC+ countries into agreeing to a massive oil production cut. Some US lawmakers have started making noise to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia. For his part, the crown prince appeared unfazed and is sending a signal with reports that Xi will pay a visit to Arabia next month.

Read more: Saudi feud quits US to ask if ties are irreparable

A group of beginners

This summit will see some leaders make their G-20 debut. Gathering offers the opportunity to deepen relationships with others, but can also be fraught with challenges for someone navigating the complexities of gathering for the first time.

The list of debutants includes Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. Three G-7 countries have new representatives: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Although then-outgoing leader Angela Merkel invited Scholz to the last G-20 in Italy and included him in key meetings as part of an unusual and distinguished handover process.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will likely be there as a lame duck, having recently lost a second round to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Indonesia’s logistics tap dance

The hosts will have their hands full to prevent the summit from veering off course. There’s the logistical nightmare of preventing certain executives who don’t want to see each other from accidentally meeting in a hallway. While Indonesia will want an end-of-meeting statement, it’s hard to see how anyone can agree because Russia refuses to call its actions in Ukraine an invasion. Other summit traditions like a “family photo” of leaders are highly questioned.

For Indonesia, it’s about showing progress, or at least declarations of intent, on collective challenges like debt, food security and climate change. Yet the real business will be done in side meetings and late-night discussions rather than in a large boardroom. And maybe the best Indonesia can hope for is that there are no big hitches in public.

Read more: From warships to drones, Indonesia bolsters G-20 security in Bali

The G-7 summit in Canada in June 2018 potentially represents a cautionary tale of how quickly things can go wrong. The leaders met late at night to draft a statement over then-US President Donald Trump’s vigorous objections to the language on trade. An iconic photo showed leaders gathered around Trump, urging him to sign. Eventually he did – only to ‘unsubscribe’ hours later when he had already left the summit, accusing host Justin Trudeau of being dishonest.

Outdoor entertainment

For Biden, the encounter risks being overshadowed by his old nemesis. Trump touted a “big announcement” this week – and is expected to say he’s running for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

If Trump throws his hat in the ring, it will undoubtedly become the first thing any other leader will ask of Biden, especially if he now commits to re-election (Biden explained how he ran in 2020 in order to stave off a second Trump term).

Another person who may decide to intercede in Bali is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has launched more missiles and prepared to potentially test an atomic device.

A North Korean nuclear event would immediately steal the show with leaders from the United States (enemy), China (ally), Japan (enemy), South Korea (enemy) and Russia (ally) all at the same location.

–With the help of Volodymyr Verbyany and James Mayger.

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