Much rode on last weekend’s summit of Group of 20 nations. After last month’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting failed to issue a communique for the first time, a second consecutive gathering that could not reach consensus would have sent tremors through markets and rattled the global economy. Fortunately, leaders of the 20 countries that represent two-thirds of the world population and 85 percent of the world’s wealth managed to find common ground. That is a low bar, but that may be all that is possible now. It also puts a burden on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will host next year’s G20 meetings.
The joint statement issued at the end of the meeting noted that trade and investment are “important engines of growth” and that the multilateral trading system has made important contributions to that goal. The group reaffirmed its commitment to a “rules-based international order.” Significantly, the document did not mention protectionism, even though the fight against such measures has been a staple of G20 policy and pronouncements since its inception a decade ago in the wake of the global financial crisis. The group also acknowledged that the global trading system “is currently falling short of its objectives” and called for reform of the World Trade Organization so that it can better fulfill its role. Proposed remedies will be assessed at next year’s summit, which Japan will hold in Osaka.