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Crimea's shadow hangs over G20 summit

By Zhang Yunbi | China Daily Africa | Updated: 2014-11-16 13:10

Chinese experts said China aimed to create greater coordination among the world's economic powers at the G20 Leaders' Summit that was likely to be dominated by discussions about the Crimean crisis, the global response to Ebola and Russia's response to the downing of flight MH17.

President Xi Jinping was to attend the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, on Nov 15 and 16. Xi was also to pay state visits to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji from Nov 16 to 23.

The Group of 20 is made up of 19 of the world's major and emerging economies, as well as the European Union. The group accounts for 85 percent of the world's economy and more than 75 percent of global trade.

But gamesmanship was expected to dominate this year's gathering as the US and Russia locked horns over the Crimean crisis and the Kremlin's response to the MH17 crash.

"It won't be a talkfest," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier this month about a summit agenda that was likely to be filled with political distractions.

Mark Melatos, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney's School of Economics, said it was important that the G20 produce tangible progress or risk becoming a forum of empty political statements.

"This seems to be the case with the current 'growth and resilience' agenda."

Observers were also pessimistic about the future effectiveness of the G20 mechanism because it remains vulnerable to the changing expectations of leading developed countries.

In 2008, finance ministers and central bank chiefs of the G20 met before leaders of the G20 held their first summit in Washington to tackle the global financial crisis.

At that time, "developed economies were more keen to cooperate with new emerging markets in order to help them out of the financial crisis", says Chen Fengying, a senior research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "Since the preliminary goal of dragging the economy out of trouble has been achieved, their passion is phasing out."

Jin Zhongxia, director of the Financial Research Institute affiliated with the People's Bank of China, says the G20, which has no secretariat or legal instruments to carry out its resolutions, is "witnessing a diminishing readiness for cooperation among its members".

Jin said that during the global financial crisis, Washington made concessions to emerging economies, but has shown a drop in enthusiasm to honor its commitments because its economy is recovering.

Experts said it is time for member economies to decide whether the G20 will be a leading mechanism to navigate global economic governance.

Pang Zhongying, professor of world politics at Renmin University of China, said the G20 is still "an ideal paradigm for coordination among major countries" and that the framework should be valued.

"This framework can function in two situations. It helps to consolidate major countries in times of economic hardships. It is also expected to serve as a manager and controller of the conflict between major countries."

The balance of power between developed countries and emerging economies and the relationship between China and the US will also determine the fate of the G20, Jin says.

If China is approved as the host of the G20 summit in 2016, China is expected to "push for making G20 a major mechanism that shapes coordination among major countries in the 21st century", Pang Zhongying said.

Economic discussions at the summit were likely to focus on fundamentals of global trade, infrastructure, tax and banking.

Abbott said discussions would revolve around the worldwide infrastructure gap, reducing tax evasion by global companies and increasing participation in the workforce.

Australia has already secured an agreement that the G20 countries will aim to boost their collective economic growth by 2 percent above what is currently expected over the next five years.

Mike Callaghan, director of the G20 Studies Center with the Australian think tank Lowy Institute for International Policy, said the "challenge is that the global economy is operating below power. We are seeing growth potential of countries having been low. Some countries still haven't recovered the lost output since the crisis. As the IMF said, the downsize risks are growing. We have many tensions."

Chen Fengying said the G20's growth strategy must be given higher priority during the summit.

"An action plan is expected to navigate how member economies will achieve the 2 percent boost in economic growth."

AFP and Xinhua contributed to this story.

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