LEADERS of the world’s biggest economies are converging on Buenos Aires, Argentina in preparation for the kick-off of the G20 Summit on Friday.
The annual meeting places the financial policy and economics centre stage as they come together to shape the global economic agenda.
But, as you would expect, with this many world leaders in the same room, it’s impossible to escape awkward confrontations, political intrigue, and closed-door deal making.
With a tumultuous past 12 months for diplomatic ties and strained alliances, this year’s two-day summit promises to be a watch-worthy affair.
Here’s what you need to know and what you need to look out for as shenanigans get underway.
What is the G20?
Originally founded in 1999 as the G7, the Summit came about to give governments a voice in the global economy. At the time, only finance ministers and central bank representatives would generally attend.
This has grown, and when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, the group’s need to prevent future financial crises became more evident than ever.
The group represents about 75 percent of the world’s international trade and 85 percent of its global economic output.
Who is in the G20?
The group is made up of 19 countries and the European Union.
Asia Pacific countries in attendance are Japan, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea.
Others are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, UK, US, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey.
The Netherlands and Chile will also be attending this year as the host country is allowed to select two countries of their choosing to join the discussions.
What’s on the agenda?
G20 covers a broad range of topics that branch out from the central theme of development and macroeconomic coordination. These range from female empowerment and climate action, to fighting corruption and building trade.
This year, Argentina has highlighted three areas of importance that relate to their own current governance issues, all of which fall under this year’s theme of “building consensus for fair and sustainable development.”
Infrastructure development is a top priority as the global gap in infrastructure poses a major hurdle in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The G20 believes they need a global infrastructure investment of almost US$100 trillion between now and 2040 to achieve the SDGs.
Where this money comes from and progress of the projects will be discussed this weekend. China will play a large role in these discussions as their expansive Belt and Road Initiative really takes hold.
Food security is also near the top of the agenda.
The G20 countries account for nearly 60 percent of the world’s agricultural land and 80 percent of its trade in food and farm commodities. Cooperation is needed to ensure this develops sustainably while still meeting the sizeable task of doubling food production to meet demand over the next 30 years.
And finally, the future of work in the face of rapidly advancing technology is up for discussion.
As the employment market goes through a seismic shift, governments face the challenge of preparing their workforces for what comes next.
What’s the gossip?
While that’s the official agenda, the back-room meetings and hand shaking sessions are likely to be the more interesting – and more influential – bits of the summit.
There are a couple of situations in particular that will grab people’s attention; the first being US President Donald Trump’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
In the build up to the pair’s first face-to-face meeting since last year, hopes were high they might reach a resolution to their ongoing trade spat. But hopes have quickly faded as Trump was showing no signs of letting up when he discussed his tariff hikes with the Wall Street Journal on Monday.
With fears mounting this row could turn into a full-blown trade war, and both economies taking a hit in the meantime, there’s a lot riding on this meeting.
There will undoubtedly be a watchful eye on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. After being implicated in the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khasoggi in the kingdom’s embassy in Turkey, MbS as he is commonly known is considered the most toxic guest at the meet.
Few leaders will want to be seen associating with the crown prince as he has quickly become an international pariah since the October murder.
US President Trump has said he stands with Saudi Arabia and still considers them a “great ally” and a “steadfast partner,” but he has no plans to meet with MbS while in Buenos Aires.
French President Emmanuel Macron has, however, said he plans to meet with MbS and has made clear he will bring up Khashoggi’s murder.
Watch this space to find out which leaders find themselves in an awkward encounter with the Saudi monarch.