Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

Will the G20 Shift Its Focus to Latin America’s Interests?

Argentine President Mauricio Macri, seen speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at this month’s G20 summit in Hamburg, will host next year’s summit of the G20 nations.

The Group of 20 leaders, including the presidents of Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, met earlier this month in Hamburg, Germany. The Latin American G20 member countries have historically struggled to put forward a common platform, analysts have noted, which has led to difficulties in incorporating Latin American priorities into the larger agenda of the summit. How well were the interests of Mexico, Argentina and Brazil represented in Hamburg? What opportunities exist for advancing Latin American interests at next year’s G20 summit, which is to be held in Argentina? What goals should Latin American leaders seek to prioritize through the G20, and what obstacles are most likely to stand in the way of achieving those goals?

Jorge Argüello, president of Fundación Embajada Abierta in Argentina and former Argentine ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations: "By not being able to define a common regional agenda, the Latin American bloc (Mexico, Brazil and Argentina) has struggled to incorporate Latin American priorities into the global agenda and has thus faced an additional historical disadvantage in G20 debates. This year’s G20 process, and the upcoming Argentine G20 presidency in 2018, make for great opportunities in overcoming Latin America’s legacy of being overlooked in setting the global governance agenda. Latin America must finally overcome the lack of a well-articulated and coherent position that it usually drags onto the G20 stage. The ‘Trump threat’ may spark an opportunity for making such an outcome possible, insofar as it might allow Mexico to recalibrate its stance on trade, financial and political issues. Argentina and Brazil in turn must prepare to expand and enrich their regional strategy within the G20. There is a clear opportunity in front of us: after Germany, the G20—under Argentina’s presidency—will be hosted in Latin America. That event should find our countries ready to clearly represent our regional needs and expectations as a whole within the G20 agenda. The care of natural resources and the fair commercialization of raw materials; the promotion of human resources and quality employment; investment in housing, education and health; and unrestricted respect for the right to migrate. These policy goals and others can be the base elements of a shared agenda. However, to attain such an outcome, Latin American G20 leaders must first be able to recognize each other, sit at a table and seriously agree on how, when and where to push in the G20. Otherwise, the global engine and its steering committee will remain in other, non-Latin-American, hands, and we will continue to take our place at the tail end of the train of contemporary global history."

Heidi Lough, lead political risk specialist, and Juan Cruz Díaz, managing director, both at Cefeidas Group in Buenos Aires: "While the G20 has been an increasingly effective forum for addressing pressing global challenges, Argentina’s presidency should focus on devising more inclusive responses. As host of the first-ever South American summit, Argentina has the chance to redirect the focus to issues important to the region and promote inclusive, sustainable growth that reaches all corners of the G20 network. A scaled-back agenda will be key to a successful summit in 2018, with the government likely to take inspiration from the 2014 Brisbane summit. The issues Argentina has identified to date—such as promoting trade, strengthening global economic integration and working toward regulating agricultural markets—will be considered through a broader lens: how to respond to a changing labor market, with a focus on job creation and innovation. Argentina should also heed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s call to keep health firmly on the G20 agenda. Argentina’s ability to deliver on its G20 commitments is enhanced by relative alignment between the sherpas of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. A common belief in the need for a regional voice existed in Hamburg. However, internal difficulties—notably a recently reshuffled foreign ministry in Argentina, and tumultuous political events in Brazil—complicated the ability to put forward a coherent, shared vision. The summit in Buenos Aires represents an opportunity to work more constructively on how to incorporate Latin American interests into the broader G20 agenda. There is an opportunity for Latin American G20 nations to advance the continent’s interests and concerns at the summit itself. With 16 months until the 2018 summit, Argentine Sherpa Pedro Villagra Delgado has ample time to seek input from other Latin American countries on the G20’s priorities. Although achieving full consensus on the agenda set forth in Buenos Aires will be an insurmountable challenge—especially in light of a fractious geopolitical climate—Argentina should seize the opportunity to provide the regional leadership needed to work toward Latin American alignment on key global issues."

Guy Edwards, research fellow and co-director of the Climate and Development Lab at Brown University: "Argentina’s G20 presidency is a bittersweet moment for President Macri. It is a big opportunity to advance Argentina’s foreign policy goals such as improving relations with the United States and Europe and rejuvenating Mercosur. It is also wrought with difficulties. Argentina’s G20 agenda is focusing on jobs with the advent of new technologies and automation. On free trade and climate change, Argentina can improve relations with Europe and China while integrating the Paris Agreement into its G20 presidency. President Macri’s G20 agenda could receive a bounce if the E.U.-Mercosur trade agreement negotiations conclude successfully this December. President Macri may eye an opportunity to position Argentina as a regional leader by acting as a conduit for Latin American perspectives. On climate change, Argentina is well placed to advance the G20’s agenda. Argentina was the first country to submit a revised national climate plan as part of the Paris Agreement. It can link its agenda on jobs with the shift to a low-carbon economy. An important step will be to prepare Argentina’s long-term, low-emission development strategy before the summit. It will also need to make greater progress on meeting its renewable energy targets and reducing deforestation. Argentina will need to work closely with civil society to ensure there is sufficient space for participation. As much as Argentina can hope for calm waters, global events could make for stormy conditions. The NAFTA renegotiations start in August and will probably not conclude soon, with a genuine risk that they break down. Conflicts across the Middle East and the humanitarian crises in Africa could cause major disruptions. Elections could also generate waves in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil next year. A big challenge will be how to deal with President Trump. Macri may try to capitalize on their ‘friendship,’ yet this relationship could cause trouble, given the allegedly complicated picture of Trump’s business entanglements in Argentina. Argentina will remain at the mercy of global events. Working as closely as possible especially with its European and Latin American neighbors will help to buttress its presidency."

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