Bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg
A lot of bilateral meetings are held on the sidelines of G20 summits as well as other multilateral events every year. The G20 summit in Hamburg held on 7-8 July 2017 under the German G20 presidency is not an exception. Over 70 meetings were organized on its sidelines (Annex) which is close to the level of previous G20 summits.
The G20 summits provide an opportunity for “socialization” of new leaders of G20 member states at the world stage. Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Korean President Moon Jae-in attended the G20 summit for the first time.
The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin held 12 bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit (with the leaders of the European Union, France and Germany, France, Japan, Republic of Korea, Turkey, the United States as well as brief meetings with heads of the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Vietnam and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres). For comparison it`s interesting to look at the statistics of the Russian President`s bilateral meetings at previous G20 summits: in Hangzhou in 2016 the President of Russia held 10 meetings, in Antalya – 8, in Brisbane in 2014 - 5, and, finally, in St. Petersburg in 2013 – 7. Certainly, the main event that drew attention of all media was the first meeting between Vladimir Putin and the newly-elected US President Donald Trump. Even though the meeting was not marked with breakthrough decisions, many experts in the political sphere concluded that it laid a basis for further active dialogue due to a friendly mood of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump`s talks.
The discussion at working breakfast with the Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and President of France Emmanuel Macron was devoted to the situation in Ukraine and ways to settle the crisis. A separate meeting between the President of Russia and President of France focused on bilateral cooperation issues as well as global climate agenda.
Vladimir Putin and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker discussed cooperation between the European Commission and the Eurasian Economic Union as well as current geopolitical agenda in the European region.
On the sidelines of the Hamburg summit the first meeting between the Russian President and new Korean President Moon Jae-in took place. Vladimir Putin emphasized that “North Korea’s nuclear programme is certainly a very urgent issue. The main point here is not to lose self-control. It is necessary to act pragmatically and carefully.”
The bilateral meeting between the heads of Russia and Turkey focused on bilateral cooperation, particularly the TurkStream and Akkuyu NPP projects as well as the situation in Syria.
The agenda of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, as expected, focused on the implementation of agreements in respect of the Kuril Islands as well as trade, economic and business cooperation.
The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also held 12 meetings, both with leaders of the G20 member states, invited countries, including Guinea and Norway, and an international organization (the United Nations). At the meeting with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe the Turkish President expressed concerns about the Fetullah Terrorist Organization`s activities in Japan under the disguise of educational institutions, associations and so-called culture centers. “They in no way represent Turkey,” – he emphasized.
The “mistress” of the summit - Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel allowed time in her hot schedule for bilateral meetings with heads of Australia, China and the Republic of Korea. A notable event was an opening ceremony of Panda Garden at the Berlin Zoo. Chinese President Xi Jinping handed to the German leader two giant pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing from Sichuan of China as a mark of China-Germany cooperation in giant pandas protection and the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel also attended the friendly football match between Chinese and German youths held in Berlin on the eve of the summit.
A choice of partners for bilateral meetings by future G 20 chair – Argentine President Mauricio Macri was determined by geographic priorities. So, he met with the leaders of India, Turkey and Singapore – major regional economies located at different continents. The meetings predominantly focused on investment opportunities in Argentina. According to President Macri, “Now it is a perfect time to invest to Argentina”, first of all to the energy sector. The cooperation under the framework of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) was also discussed. At the meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Argentinian President emphasized a need to remove the barriers caused by phytosanitary measures to simplify access for Argentinian food items to the Indian market. According to Mauricio Macri, “Argentina will become the world supermarket in the short-term perspective” as well as significantly increase its economic growth rate as a result of reforms launched in December 2015”.
US President Donald Trump held 8 bilateral meetings and one trilateral meeting – with the heads of the Republic of Korea and Japan on the Northern Korea nuclear problem. In their Joint Statement the leaders of three countries emphasized the importance of joint work to address the serious and escalating threat posed by nuclear and ballistic missile programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the need of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.
The meeting with President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto focused on bilateral cooperation between the countries, in particular migration, as well as regional challenges, including fight with drug trafficking and crisis in Venezuela.
Donald Trump and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May emphasized the importance of the trade deal between the US and the UK affected by the UK`s exit from the EU.
The agenda of the meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping included trade cooperation between the countries as well as the DPRK nuclear problem.
Donald Trump and leader of the invited country - Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong discussed regional security issues as well as fight with terrorism and extremism on regional and global levels.
The bilateral meeting between Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May and Prime Minister of Italy Paolo Gentiloni was notable. The leaders discussed the migration crisis in the Mediterranean, not bilateral issues.
The Hamburg summit gave an opportunity for new Korean President Moon Jae-in to meet with a wide range of partners from various regions – Eurasia (China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Viet Nam), North America (Canada) and Australia. President Moon Jae-in` bilateral meetings agendas unalterably included the DPRK nuclear problem. It should be noted that the Korean president frankly declared the readiness to cooperate with the DPRK as well as to meet with Kim Jong-un. This view differs from his two predecessors` positions.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed bilateral cooperation with the heads of the Republic of Korea, Italy, Norway and Japan. In particular the Indian Prime Minister called for the partner countries to participate more actively in the country`s programmes aimed at attracting foreign investment such as “Make in India”, “Digital India”, “Start up India” and others, as well as economic and business events, e.g. World Food India to be held in November 2017. He emphasized the need to strengthen engagement between small and medium enterprises of the countries to boost mutually beneficial cooperation. A special attention was given to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The agendas of the bilateral meetings of Indonesian President Joko Widodo focused on bilateral trade and economic cooperation, in particular signing relevant agreements. Joko Widodo and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed to complete negotiations on the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) by the end of 2017. Joko Widodo and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to launch negotiations on the Indonesia-Turkey Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IT-CEPA) aimed at reducing or terminating trade barriers and creating secure investment conditions.
Inasmuch as Indonesia faces terrorist attacks, Joko Widodo discussed anti-terrorism cooperation at the meetings with Australian and Turkish partners. Joko Widodo and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed their intention to boost cooperation in the defense industry, not in the joint tank production, but in the aerospace sphere as well as submarine manufacturing.
To conclude, the Hamburg summit made it possible not only to elaborate collective decisions aimed at addressing global challenges, but provided opportunities for a strong bilateral diplomatic dialogue.
Author: Elizaveta Safonkina, Researcher of the RANEPA Center for International Institutions Research (CIIR)