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G20 ends without a communique after no consensus on war in Ukraine

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A meeting of finance leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies, referred to as the group of 20 or G20, ended on Saturday without a joint communique after Russia and China opposed any reference to the war in Ukraine.

Instead, a G20 Chair’s Summary and Outcome Document were released after the two-day meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors here. It carried two paragraphs on the war but added that this was not agreed to by Russia and China.

Coinciding with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leaders from countries such as the US and France wanted a condemnation of Moscow for the invasion while host India initially felt G20 was not the forum to address such an issue and wanted a more neutral term like “crisis” or a “challenge” to describe the “geopolitical situation”.

But eventually, it did agree to include the impact the war has had on the global economy. Russia and China were upset at the use of the G20 platform for discussing political matters.

India’s Finance Miniter Nirmala Sitharaman is the chair.

The Summary stated that the G20 nations “reiterated” their national positions on the Ukraine war.

“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risk.

“There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy, the Summary said, adding this particular paragraph of the statement was not agreed to by Russia and China.

It went on to state that upholding international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability was essential.

Addressing a press conference, Sitharaman said the paragraphs omitted were exactly what the leaders of G20 had agreed at the last summit in Bali, Indonesia in November last year.

“But two countries, Russia and China had reservations. So with a footnote certainly a communique can’t go out and therefore it had to be a chair summary and an outcome document,” she said.

“They didn’t want those two paragraphs to go in the communique because the leaders had prepared that and it was timed for circumstances that prevailed then (in Bali) and so not now.” .

Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth said the language of the paragraphs was taken from the G20 Bali declaration.

“The only change is the para there in Bali declaration said this year we have witnessed a war. Now the year has gone by. Both Russia and China took the position that Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ mandate is to deal with economic and financial issues and their mandate is not on geo-political issues. So they did not comment on the language part. They said it is not their domain so they will not comment on the language part.” .

“There was no request or demand to remove the word ‘war’, they just said to remove the paragraph itself because it was not the right place for having those paragraphs. On the other hand, all other 18 countries felt that the war has got implications on the global economy so this is the right place to have those paragraphs,” he added.

The two-day meeting discussed a wide range of issues – from debt relief to poorer countries, to digital currencies and payments, reforms of multilateral lending institutions like the World Bank, climate change and financial inclusion.

The meeting discussed “debt vulnerabilities” in low and middle-income countries.

“Strengthening multilateral coordination by official bilateral and private creditors is needed to address the deteriorating debt situation and facilitate coordinated debt treatment for debt-distressed countries,” Sitharaman’s Summary said flagging debt restructuring at Zambia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Sri Lanka.

“We task the International Financial Architecture Working Group to develop a G20 Note on the Global Debt Landscape in a fair and comprehensive manner.”.

It went on to state that sustainable finance is critical in achieving sustainable, resilient, inclusive and equitable economic growth which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The meeting also pressed for a need for “the international community to step up its efforts to effectively combat money laundering, terrorism financing, and proliferation financing to enhance the integrity and resilience of the international financial system.” .

Sitharaman’s summary said the global economic outlook has modestly improved since the last meeting in October 2022. “However, global growth remains slow, and downside risks to the outlook persist, including elevated inflation, a resurgence of the pandemic and tighter financing conditions that could worsen debt vulnerabilities in many emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs).” .

“We, therefore, reiterate the need for well-calibrated monetary, fiscal, financial, and structural policies to promote growth and maintain macroeconomic as well as financial stability. We will continue to enhance macro policy cooperation and support the progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” it said.

Also discussed was revisiting the adequacy of IMF quotas. The Summary said the leaders “will continue the process of IMF governance reform under the 16th General Review of Quotas, including a new quota formula as a guide, to be completed by 15 December 2023.” .

Earlier, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said it was “absolutely necessary” the communique contains a condemnation of Russia.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said there was no way G20 could step back from a joint statement agreed at a last summit in Bali, Indonesia in November 2022, which had stated that “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine”.

At the last G20 Summit in Bali in November 2022, the declaration read: “Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine”. However, some member countries held “other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions”.

Russia, which is part of G20, calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”.


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