Saudi Arabia said Monday it will hold the G20 summit virtually in November, instead of having leaders of the world’s richest nations converge on Riyadh as planned before the coronavirus crisis.
The pandemic has forced all of the group’s meetings to be held by videoconference since March.
In that month, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman chaired an emergency virtual summit of leaders to discuss a global response to the crisis which has ravaged global economies.
“The 2020 G20 Leaders’ Summit will be held virtually on November 21-22 and will be chaired by His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” the kingdom said in a statement.
“The upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth, by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down the foundations for a better future.”
Saudi Arabia had been attempting to repair its frayed global image ahead of its hosting of the summit.
The conservative kingdom, under fire over human rights abuses, has accelerated investment in glitzy sports and entertainment events in a bid to soften its profile and boost jobs and investment.
However, human rights groups have urged G20 member states to exert pressure on the kingdom over its intensifying crackdown on dissent, which has seen women activists, journalists and political dissidents jailed.
New York city’s mayor Bill de Blasio recently pulled out of a Saudi-hosted Urban 20 mayors’ conference, amid calls for a boycott of the event that coincides with the anniversary of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
Khashoggi’s 2018 killing, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, battered the reputation of the kingdom and of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who controls all major levers of power.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed “systemic weaknesses” in global health systems, the G20 said Monday, but there was no mention of Washington’s contentious decision to halt World Health Organization funding.
The statement came after health ministers from the 20 most advanced economies held a virtual meeting on Sunday hosted by the group’s current president Saudi Arabia following criticism the institution was slow to address the pandemic.
“Health Ministers recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted systemic weaknesses in health systems,” they said in a joint statement.
“It also has shown vulnerabilities in the global community’s ability to prevent and respond to pandemic threats.
“Ministers addressed the need to improve the effectiveness of global health systems by sharing knowledge and closing the gap in response capabilities and readiness.”
The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rose to 164,016 on Sunday, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
More than 2,363,210 declared cases have been registered in 193 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December.
G20 energy ministers held virtual talks Friday as major oil producers scrambled to finalise output cuts to shore up prices, with Mexico announcing a deal with the United States that could end an impasse.
Mexico was the lone holdout in an OPEC-led agreement reached after marathon overnight talks that would see output slashed by 10 million barrels per day in May and June.
The standoff had cast doubt on efforts to bolster oil prices, pushed to near two-decade lows by the demand-sapping coronavirus pandemic and a Saudi-Russia price war.
The G20 talks, hosted by top exporter Saudi Arabia, are expected to seal the deal more widely with non-OPEC countries in the group including Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Under the OPEC deal, Mexico was expected to cut production by 400,000 barrels per day but the country resisted during the overnight talks and demanded the reduction be limited to 100,000.
Speaking to reporters later Friday, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had reached an agreement with his US counterpart Donald Trump to cut production by 100,000 bpd.
He added that Trump had agreed to cut US production by 250,000 bpd “as compensation” for Mexico.
There was no immediate comment from Trump, and it was unclear whether the OPEC oil cartel and its allies would agree to the Mexico-US deal.
The production cut agreement hinges on Mexico’s consent for it to take effect, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said early Friday after an hours-long meeting.
Riyadh, which currently holds the G20’s rotating presidency, has said the G20 talks were aimed at ensuring “market stability”.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak urged the G20 ministers to act in a spirit of “partnership and solidarity”, according to a local television station.
“I hope that (the meeting) will help restore some much-needed stability to oil markets,” said Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
“The extreme volatility we are seeing in oil markets is detrimental to the global economy at a time when we can least afford it.”
– ‘Storm clouds’ – The deal marked a possible end of the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which Bloomberg News said had agreed to slash output to around 8.5 million bpd.
The impact of the cuts on prices was not immediately clear as the global oil markets were shut on Friday for the Easter weekend.
But Stephen Innes, an analyst at AxiCorp, said the supply cuts were “less than the market hoped for” given the hit to demand from coronavirus lockdowns throughout the world.
“The deal currently tabled will only partially offset oil price distress, but that’s what it was supposed to do. Still, the storm clouds for oil prices will only completely dissipate when lockdowns are lifted,” he said.
Rystad Energy also said the cuts were not enough to restore market equilibrium.
“The proposed 10 million bpd cut by OPEC+ for May and June will keep the world from physically testing the limits of storage capacity and save prices from falling into a deep abyss, but it will still not restore the desired market balance,” the energy research firm said.
– ‘Hemorrhaging’ industry – Oil prices have slumped since the beginning of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our industry is hemorrhaging; no-one has been able to stem the bleeding,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said ahead of the OPEC-led meeting, bemoaning companies already filing for bankruptcy and the tens of thousands of jobs that have been lost.
Compounding the problem, Riyadh and Moscow had both ramped up output in a bid to hold on to market share and undercut US shale producers.
While the US is not in the OPEC or OPEC+ groups, it is supportive of a reduction in supply in order to stabilise prices and breathe new life into its shale industry.
Trump had expressed optimism about the prospects for an agreement — even as the talks appeared to be at an impasse.
Fresh from a conference call with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump told a press briefing at the White House Thursday that a deal was “close”.
Shale has transformed the US into the world’s top producer, but the industry cannot sustain its high cost base as prices collapse.
Yet the US oil sector appears reluctant to trim production, having extracted a near-record 13 mbpd in the final week of March. This fell to 12.4 mbpd last week.
At the same time, the global supply glut — already weighing on oil markets before the coronavirus crisis — has stretched oil storage capacity to its limits, forcing many producers to scale back output.
The world’s top financial policymakers admitted Sunday that “intensifying” trade tensions pose a risk for the global economy, after a G20 meeting that laid bare differences between the United States and other nations.
Following 30 hours of wrangling in what one official described as a “tense” atmosphere, the G20 finance minister and central bank chiefs produced a final statement acknowledging that “growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside”.
“Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified,” the G20 said in a statement seen by AFP, adding they “stood ready to take further action” if required.
As a compromise pushed by Washington, the statement omitted language from a previous draft that mentioned a “pressing need to resolve trade tensions”.
The statement capped two days of talks in the western Japanese city of Fukuoka that also tackled the thorny issue of taxing internet giants and, for the first time, the economic challenges posed by ageing.
But trade battles were front and centre of policymakers’ minds as the US and China continue to threaten each other with tariffs that economists fear could slam the brakes on global growth.
The IMF has said US-China tariffs could shave global GDP by 0.5 percent in 2020 or about US$455 billion, stressing the need to resolve the differences to avoid plunging the world economy into another crisis.
The G20 ministers heaved a sigh of relief just hours before the meeting when the US and Mexico clinched a deal over immigration that stopped Washington imposing five percent tariffs on Mexican goods.
But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that Washington stood ready to impose more tariffs on China if President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping fail to strike a deal at the G20 summit later this month in Osaka.
“If China wants to come back to the table and negotiate on the basis that we were negotiating, we can get a great historic deal. If they don’t, we’ll proceed with our tariffs,” Mnuchin told reporters on Saturday.
Taking a different line from the other policymakers, Mnuchin said the slowdown in some parts of the world was not due to trade difficulties and even said the friction could benefit some countries if companies relocated from China to avoid tariffs.
“There will be winners and losers,” said the treasury secretary.
– ‘I don’t like them’ – The quandary of reforming the global tax system to take into account the rise of internet giants such as Google and Facebook was another issue exercising the minds of policymakers in the coastal city.
In the final statement, the G20 agreed to “redouble our efforts for a consensus-based solution with a final report by 2020”.
However, here again, the Fukuoka meeting exposed a difference of opinion over what form this reform should take.
Frustrated by a lack of global action on the issue, some countries such as Britain and France have already introduced a so-called digital tax, but Mnuchin was blunt in his assessment of these policies.
“I would say the US has significant concerns with the two current taxes that are being proposed by France and the UK but let me give them some good credit for proposing them in the sense (that) they have created an urgency to deal with this issue,” Mnuchin said at a public meeting before the formal G20 started.
“Although I don’t like them, I do appreciate the impetus for these issues,” added the top US finance official.
Appropriately for a meeting held in Japan — which is on track to become the world’s first “super-aged” society in which more than 28 percent of the population is over 65 — the G20 ministers discussed for the first time the “challenges and opportunities” posed by ageing.
They suggested getting more women and elderly people into the workforce and “promoting elderly-friendly industries”, as well as reforming the fiscal and banking systems to take into account ageing populations.
“You basically have a very large portion of mankind that is ageing and then the workforce is shrinking,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria told AFP in an interview.
Solving the issue will require wholesale changes to the way society is organised, added Gurria.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday he would raise the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
“I will no doubt have the opportunity to mention it with the crown prince on the margins of the summit,” Macron told journalists in Buenos Aires.
Macron also said he had called a meeting to coordinate the views of European G20 leaders on policy challenges ahead of the summit, which begins Friday.
In a tweet later, he said they would also discuss the fallout from Khashoggi’s murder.
“I have always been clear with Saudi Arabia. It will be one of the subjects we will talk about among Europeans. I wanted us to have a coordination meeting before the opening of the G20 on this subject and all the challenges at the summit.”
The de facto Saudi ruler arrived in Argentina on Wednesday, bidding to shrug off international outrage over the October 2 murder in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
Overnight violence related to anti-G20 demonstrations was carried out by “thugs and criminals, not protesters,” Germany’s interior minister said on Saturday (July 8).
Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in his hometown of Dresden that more than 200 police officers were injured during two nights of looting, arson attacks and “serious bodily harm.”
The interior minister added that according to security authorities, preparations for the violence had been underway for a year and a half and that the logistics then originated inside camps set up on the outskirts of Hamburg.
De Maiziere said authorities had tried to ban these camps but “courts decided differently” which “did not facilitate the police’s operation.”
Protesters injured at least 160 police officers, set up burning barricades, damaged street signs and scaffolding and ripped up paving stones on Friday seeking to wrest control of the streets of Hamburg as leaders from the world’s biggest economies enjoyed a concert at the newly finished Elbphilharmonie.
The escalating violence prompted Hamburg’s police to call in reinforcements from around Germany to help the 15,000 officers already deployed to the northern port city for the G20 summit.
Three officers required treatment in hospital, police said, noting that protesters had used slingshots as well as thrown bottles and stones. At least 70 people were detained and 15 were taken into custody, police said.
Police used water cannon to repel protesters as police lines were also pelted with objects.
United States President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that it was an “honour” to meet him for the first time and said he looked forward to “positive things” in the relationship between the former Cold War rivals.
The face-to-face encounter between Trump and Putin at a Group of 20 Summit in Germany was one of the most eagerly anticipated meetings in years.
Trump and Putin spoke through translators with their respective foreign ministers present for six minutes before reporters were allowed into the room for their statements. Afterwards, the reporters were ushered out and the meeting continued.
Trump promised a rapprochement with Moscow during his campaign for the presidency last year. But he has been unable to deliver on that pledge because his administration has been dogged by investigations into allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election and ties between his campaign team and Moscow.
Moscow has denied any interference and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Russia.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday arrived at Hamburg’s Atlantic Hotel where he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Erdogan arrived in Hamburg a day after saying he didn’t regret accusing Germany of “Nazi-like” behaviour during an interview with France 24.
Erdogan has accused Germany of “fascist actions” reminiscent of Nazi times in a row over the cancellation of political rallies aimed at drumming up support for him among 1.5 million Turkish citizens in Germany during a referendum campaign in March.
Ties between Berlin and Ankara have soured over the past year due to disagreements on a range of political and security issues, including Turkey’s jailing of a German-Turkish journalist and its refusal to let German lawmakers visit German troops at a Turkish air base.
The European Parliament called on Thursday for Turkey’s European Union accession talks to be suspended if Ankara fully implements plans to expand Erdogan’s powers, in a vote which Turkey dismissed as flawed and wrong.