“We agreed that we do not agree.” That about sums up the outcome of the G20 summit.
Not surprisingly, Donald Trump did not change his mind on the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015 and the US will not re-join it. The rest of the G20 want to stick to it, at least in principle. Turkey, however, is calling for a final ratification to clarify its own status within the framework of the agreement. If it were to be classified as an industrialised country, it would have to spend far greater sums than a “developing country” which could hope to receive money.
The voice of the German bourgeoisie, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pronounced the summit a success because its final declaration confirmed a commitment to free trade. After all, even the US, if with some “relativising” additions, agreed to it. Above all, it was a good thing for all 20 leaders to meet at all:
“The heads of state and government from 19 industrialised and emerging countries as well as representatives of the EU have met in a difficult world situation and have looked at the major issues of international politics. That they were not always of one heart and mind is in the nature of the matter. That makes it all the more welcome.”
What was achieved? Putin and Trump were reported to have improved their “conversation climate”. They even announced a surprising deal to combat “cybercriminality”, but this did not survive Airforce One’s return to the US. More importantly, they negotiated another “deal” on the reactionary pacification of Syria, a so-called armistice.
It was probably not coincidental that this men’s meeting took place at the same time as the presentation of the G20 / EU-Africa partnership programme. The two “strong men” clearly wanted to show Angela Merkel that such an agreement was not really very important and, above all, they wanted to ensure that she did not have a stage on which to present herself as the “saviour” of a continent.
The FAZ also rightly points out that the summit not only did not produce any great, tangible results, but that bilateral discussions were at the forefront.
The German government can, however, point to some positives; the vast majority of the G20 did not go into the “Trump camp”; countries such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey did not openly oppose the Paris Climate Protection Accord and China and the EU can still claim to be playing a leading role in industrial restructuring.
Admittedly, any action on the climate question, like on all other great questions, will be determined by the increasing competition and the struggle for the redivision of the world. That is why the G20 could not produce any really tangible results. Developments in the world economy and international politics point to a worsening of instability and crises and, with them, ever more open disputes over the increasingly explosive points of dispute, whether on the Arabian Peninsula or over North Korea.
In view of the meagre results, the official statement of the German government reads like a desperate attempt to make a virtue out of necessity; all the differences and arguments were at least “openly” recognised. What is much more important is that the summit clearly expressed the key features of the world situation:
1. The US can no longer claim to be the politically leading nation of the G20 or even of the “Western world,” as its rivals were still prepared to accept under Obama.
2. The Trump government repeatedly and openly tried to undermine the political objectives of the EU and Germany before and during the summit. Trump not only met with the Russian, Saudi and Turkish delegations before the G20 summit, but also with the Polish, Slovakian and Hungarian governments.
3. Macron, on the other hand, has openly formulated his entitlement to a stronger global leadership role, partly as a substitute for German imperialism, whose government had to play the “non-partisan” role of the summit’s host.
4. In any case, it is now clear that the Western bloc under US hegemony has become more brittle, new “alliances” take shape as the powers that are struggling to divide and control the world reposition themselves.
5. Just how contradictory this whole situation is can be seen clearly from relations between the US and Russia, which encompass both joint agreements (Syria) and the continuation of a new Cold War (Ukraine, rearmament).
Merkel’s strategy failed
The German Federal Government and, above all, Chancellor Merkel, had hoped to use the G20 summit as their own political stage. In the midst of an increasingly uncertain world, they wanted to present themselves and their close allies, France, Italy, the EU as a pole of stability.
The growing conflicts between the great powers have exposed this act for what it is, a great fraud. The economic and geostrategic interests of German imperialism lie behind this. On the one hand, this is reflected in the call for free trade, climate policy, aid for (investors in) Africa, on the other, in the attempt to present the militarily weak imperialism, which is itself impacted by the crisis of the EU, as a “negotiator”, as an “honest broker”. The Federal Government, however, does not venture to speak of any successes on this front.
For the mass of the population, this raises a question; what was the point of all this? Why invite people like Trump who clearly did not intend to come to any agreement? Why not just hold a video conference if they all need to “talk to each other”? And what was decided in all the secret conversations behind closed doors, apart from even more impositions for the mass of the world’s population?
In short, there is a legitimation problem for the German government. This was also reflected in the increasingly critical reports on police repression. In “cosmopolitan Hamburg”, which was going to bring the G20 closer to the people, all that was left were the red and blue security zones. While 20,000 policemen occupied the city, its residents were asked to keep away from the G20 and even to leave the city.
After the clashes in the “Schanzenviertel” and the media hysteria against the “left radicals” and “violent extremists”, the mood changed somewhat but the underlying question remained, what good did the summit do?
In the short term, none of this will call into question the foundations of German internal stability. The economy is still doing well and there will be no major social attacks before the Bundestag elections in September. Despite the failure of her summit strategy, Merkel still appears as the personification of stability, a lesser evil as compared to Trump, Putin, May or Erdogan.
However, the loss of legitimacy also shows that the whole scenario, even the relative stability of the Federal Republic, is on shaky foundations. On the one hand, the EU, and thus German imperialism, is coming under more and more pressure from global competition. On the other, it will have to resort to more drastic political, economic, and military initiatives to try to make up for lost ground in the struggle for the redivision of the world.
The fact that the summit in Hamburg produced so little has made one thing clear: the G20 is less and less a place for agreement on common policies or joint strategies by the major powers. Rather, it is now almost exclusively a place for dealing with the regional or even global conflicts in the Near and Middle East, Ukraine or the South China Sea which are a result of the formation of new trading blocks and political alliances.
Important as mass protests and blockades such as those in Hamburg are, the G20 can only be defeated if a global movement against war, militarism, imperialist interventions and in solidarity with workers’ and liberation battles can be built that can coordinate action in the enterprises and on the streets. We can win only when we oppose the G20 and the imperialist order with an International of resistance and of struggle for another, socialist society.