G-20 Summit in Osaka kickstarts with climate change, trade war as top agenda; bilateral talks of India, US, China, Russia to remain in focus

As the two-day G-20 Summit kickstarts on Friday in Japan’s Osaka, the world will be watching with keen interest as top leaders meet on the sidelines of the annual summit which is the 14th meeting of the powerful group and the first to be held in Japan. Besides the discussions between members nations, the focus will be on the key bilateral talks to be held between various heads of state on the sidelines of the global event.

The leaders of the world’s largest economies will sit down to discuss a number of pressing issues relating to international trade, environment, and climate change, cross-nation equations, terrorism, and economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Osaka early on Thursday.

Before leaving for Osaka, Modi had said that the main agenda at the summit will be to discuss major challenges and opportunities faced by the world, including focus on women empowerment, issues related to digitalisation and artificial intelligence, and the ultimate goal of achieving ‘sustainable development’, apart from issues of national security in view of the rising threat of terrorism.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted in a recent op-ed that the Osaka summit will emphasise three key issues: free and fair trade, the digital economy, and tackling environmental problems with innovation. In his G-20 message, Abe wrote that Japan aims to “realize and promote a free and open, inclusive and sustainable, human-centred future society” and recognizes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as being at the core of the development agenda and other global issues.

Therefore, this weekend, 20 nations will look to address eight overarching themes — global economy, trade and investment, innovation, environment and energy, employment, women’s empowerment, development, and health. According to reports, talks on WTO reform to uphold multilateralism could also be high on the agenda in view of the raging trade wars and the escalated tensions between various countries as a consequence of that.

The bilaterals- focus on Trump talks, Xi and Abe

Donald Trump will hold separate one-on-one talks with Chinese premier Xi Jinping on Saturday — one among a total of nine bilateral meetings planned during his stay including one with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

The meetings will begin on Thursday when Trump lands in Japan and has dinner with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. On Friday, the US president will meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, and then with Abe and Modi, before meeting separately with Modi. Trump also added a bilateral meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday to his schedule.

On the other hand, Abe’s bilateral meeting with Xi is expected to showcase improving Sino-Japanese ties, while his sit-down with Putin is likely to highlight Abe’s failure to settle a long-standing territorial dispute with Moscow by the time of the G20 meeting as Tokyo had anticipated. Whereas, Japan would also like the US to apply more pressure to the North Korean regime, which poses a threat to Japan.

However, the other nations have expressed concerns over the bilaterals taking over or shadowing the overall agenda of the summit. An official of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Elysee office told Reuters, the Sino-US trade clashis “serious”, but it shouldn’t “take a multilateral body hostage”.

Several other G20 members, such as India, Japan, Mexico, and the European Union nations, have had to grapple with the Trump administration’s effort to remake trade ties in ways more favorable to the United States, the report says.

Amid the shadow of Hong Kong protests

Ahead of the summit, protestors in Hong Kong appealed for foreign support in their fight for political freedom, calling on world leaders to act. Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in the city center and marched to consulates of G20 nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, to deliver letters urging leaders to back their bid for the full withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, CNN reported.

Similarly, the current situation in the Persian Gulf and West Asia will also be matter of concern for the participating countries.

Japan’s preparedness

To counter any political protests, the Japanese police will monitor domestic groups hostile to other nations’ leaders, while the political affiliations of foreigners coming to Japan before the event will be scrutinised, said reports.

Though, even as world leaders will endorse a deal on marine plastic waste and find common ground on climate change, Japan’s own environmental record is under increasing scrutiny. Activists say Japan has fallen behind on reducing plastic consumption and is caving to US pressure to water down language on climate change to achieve a unanimous statement on the issue.

Japan, meanwhile, has already secured agreement from environment ministers on a marine plastic waste deal that will be endorsed during the summit, among others steps taken to ensure smooth conduct of one of the biggest gathering of world leaders.

The G20 comprises of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the US.

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