BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri today kicked off the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires. The summit takes place under the shadow of the failed APEC summit. A plea from Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera, who has been invited to attend by Macri, for more cooperation and trade runs therefore the risk of disappearing into the Twitter void.
Angela Merkel, representing a major economy, will miss the opening ceremony. Just after take-off, her plane’s communication system broke down forcing her to turn around. Though she’ll now fly commercial, she’ll get there eventually.
This year’s G20 meeting, however, may go nowhere.
The US-China trade war already forced failure of the recent APEC summit. Washington complains that China takes advantage of trade rules, Washington was instrumental in creating – and doesn’t always respect. But Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ slogan caught on with his peculiar base, so he also needs to bang on about a second, third, fourth country to sustain the momentum. Trump’s team will likely work to initiate bilateral deals, contrary to the G20 spirit, under which the president can then put his signature.
China seeks to cultivate the opposite image and presents itself as proponent of open markets, in which equal players trade according to mutually agreed rules. So far, this approach served China well, especially in Latin America, where US intervention remains a livid memory. Yet, China’s understanding is to buy influence, which implies it expects a return on investments. Such expectations aren’t unrealistic, as several Latin American countries – all of which sing the song of democracy and human rights – ditched Taiwan in favor of Chinese capital. These developments, however, should also put to rest any naivety about no-strings attached engagement with China. Chile is a master in celebrating such naivete.
This shone through in one of President Sebastián Piñera’s tweets, showing him schmoozing with Donald Trump and China’s Xi. Piñera hoped the US-China trade war could end at the meeting. Yet the meeting will fail as much as the APEC summit if things between Washington and Beijing remain the same, which looks likely.
But Piñera was spot on saying in that same tweet that regarding “global warming we have talked much and achieved little.” Trade grievances and superpower posturing lose meaning if the world keeps marching toward at least 3°C of warming and the consequent annihilation of modern civilization.
Partiendo a reunión G-20 en Bs Aires. Esperamos buenos resultados en temas tan importantes como la lucha contra el calentamiento global, donde hemos hablado mucho y logrado poco, y el término de la guerra comercial y proteccionismo. Ambos temas muy importantes para los chilenos. pic.twitter.com/ikg3K7Jfm0
— Sebastian Piñera (@sebastianpinera) November 30, 2018
Maybe Piñera can find during the meeting the boldness to explain the matter to representative who could relay it to hi new buddy, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, an anti-science leader whose announced policies would destroy the country’s environment completely, with severe consequences for the planet. To underline his seriousness (or carelessness), Bolsonaro just abandoned Brazil’s bid to host next year’s climate summit.
On the sidelines
Piñera will also meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the summit. Both leaders will discuss the row over Ricardo Palma Salamanca, who escaped high-security prison in Chile. Palma Salamanca served a sentence for the 1991 assassination of UDI-party founder and Pinochet intimus Jaime Guzmán. France recently granted Palma Salamanca asylum and, according to CNN Chile, Macron explained the decision in a letter to Piñera. Bizarrely, the letter’s content has not been published, suggesting that after weeks of its arrival, Piñera still lacks a convincing argument on the matter.
So he’ll have much on his plate in Buenos Aires – and a few tweets in between.
Christian is Managing Editor at Chile Today, where he curates the foreign policy blog Teatinos One/Eighty. Christian is also Lead Editor of E-International Relations, co-editor of an open access textbook on International Relations Theory and Director at the Chilean Association of International Specialists (ACHEI).