Economy & Culture at the G20

The world’s financial leaders met in Hangzhou, China for the yearly Group of Twenty (G20) summit.

The G20 gathering is a forum for developed nations to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy for their countries as well as emerging economies throughout the world.

This year’s summit was the first in China, and it is only the second time the world’s economic powers convened in Asia.

Hosting the event sends a powerful message about the rise of China on the global economic stage.

Attendees focused particular attention on the sluggish growth of global trade.

Among those calling for greater investment in innovative strategies to boost transnational trade is Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Some observers claim that increasing trade won’t come so easily. This is because of pressing domestic and geopolitical issues, such as the stagnant Trans Pacific Partnership and disputes in the South China Sea.

Lagging investments in Africa are also a cause of concern for many.

Many Western nations remain unwilling to increase foreign direct investment due to civil unrest in many African countries.

Robert Kappel, a senior researcher at the Global Institute of Global and Area Studies, spoke with Deutsche Welle and believes the G20 is largely a failure for developing countries. He believes that Western nations generally, and Germany specifically, need to find ways to adequately address the disparity in investment, infrastructure, and development.

Bhutan, named one of the world's climate change "hot spots" by environmental experts. (Photo by Asian Development Bank. Flickr Creative Commons.)

Bhutan, named one of the world’s climate change “hot spots” by environmental experts. (Photo by Asian Development Bank. Flickr Creative Commons.)

A renewed commitment to the climate is one of the emerging ways to address such concerns.

Many G20 countries rely on coal as a primary energy producer. Coal reliance prevents novel and innovative ways to spur economic growth, jobs, and lessen the effects of climate change.

Evidence suggests that many economic financiers are changing the way they think about the intersection of trade with climate.

Green finance” is one way that economic superpowers can spur the global economy and address growing climate concerns. This is in stark contrast to traditional models of growth in which industrial development is often seen as the only way to advance a country economically, usually at the expense of the environment.

Changing our view of the environment as essential rather than as a luxury may offer a way to balance economic demands and desires with cultural attitudes and our dependence on land, air, and water to persevere.

Despite the agreements and shift in thought about how economies intersect in myriad ways, public discontent that has seen the rise of far right political groups in numerous countries grows rapidly.

Will we go back to an era before globalization, or can the world’s leading economies develop a sustainable plan that is beneficial for all?

Alan Deardorff, Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan, argues that ratification of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) offers a way toward meeting the goals of the G20.

While it could be possible that such agreements offer an economically viable path to reconciliation and increased global trade, the TFA overlooks the role of culture in an increasingly connected world.

We should also consider ways to integrate the world’s numerous refugees, find solutions to war-torn regions, and ensure that domestic and migrant workers receive a fair share of such initiatives. Otherwise, we could face even more unrest as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Perhaps Forbes contributor Gordon Chang is correct in his claim that “economics is the new militarism,” but reducing the complicated process of international trade to a polemic against China is perhaps too simplistic.

Instead, perhaps we should acknowledge ways in which the world’s most powerful countries have neglected their commitments to developing regions and peoples.

Balancing economic growth with more inclusive space for all could very well stymy the globalization backlash we currently see worldwide.

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