CFR experts discuss the upcoming Group of Twenty (G20) Summit beginning on September 9 in New Delhi.
FROMAN: Welcome, everybody, to our virtual media briefing on the G-20. My name’s Mike Froman. I am the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And I’m delighted to have three of our fellows with us here today: Manjari Chatterjee Miller, Heidi Crebo-Rediker, and Zoe Liu. Thank you for joining us.
We’ll have a conversation here for about fifteen, twenty minutes or so, and then open it up to questions from all of you. There’s a mix of press, some of our corporate members, and some staff from Capitol Hill. This is on the record. Let me also say that there is additional material on the G-20 at CFR.org. And when this session is over we will be putting up the video and transcript of it as soon as possible afterwards, as well, so you’ll have access to it there as well.
Let me start perhaps by—with some introductory framing. Some of you may know I was the G-20 sherpa for about four years during the Obama administration, from 2009 through 2012. That was in some ways the heyday of the G-20. It had just been made a leaders-level organization at the end of the Bush administration and then into the Obama administration, and it was very much focused on firefighting around the global financial crisis. And there was a great deal of collaboration between countries at that point, and each summit built on the other. At some points there were two summits a year, in fact, to mobilize resources for the international financial institutions, to forge opportunities for regulatory cooperation in the financial sector across markets, and to coordinate macroeconomic policies to ensure that the Great Recession didn’t turn into a global depression. And in sum, it broadly worked as a crisis management mechanism, as a(n) avenue for countries to come together in the midst of a financial crisis to forge their collaboration. It then evolved over the years into something much broader. It took on broader agenda items, from development to other issues. And it sort of has waxed and waned year by year depending on the nature of international cooperation.
We’re now at a very interesting time because, clearly, geopolitics are back. There are tensions within the G-20 over issues, of course, like Ukraine. Having Russia there, having China there, there are—there is no consensus as to what to say generally about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And some of the more challenging issues that have been dealt with in the past, like climate change—where the G-20 oftentimes played a role in sorting out issues between major markets, between major countries in anticipation of the U.N. negotiations—those, too, are becoming difficult to reach consensus on, including on issues, for example, around the role of fossil fuels and fossil fuel subsidies going forward.
So we go into this weekend with India in the chair, with a lot of focus on what will come out of it. Will there be a statement, a consensus among the countries? What concrete deliverables might come out of it? And what does it mean for international cooperation in the context of growing tensions and fragmentation in the international system?
So that’s—it’s going to be a very interesting time, and India’s been a really very active chair. And maybe if I first, if you don’t mind, turn to Manjari to talk about India and its role as chair, and what it hopes to get out of this G-20. And what do you think of as the successes or the limitations of the summit from India’s perspective?
MILLER: Sure. Thank you, Mike. And welcome, everybody.
I think it’s been, you know, really fascinating to watch India’s chairmanship of the G-20 this year. The G-20 presents a really big opportunity for the Indian government, and the Indian government is very cognizant of that. You know, to understand this we kind of have to look at the prestige of the G-20 as a forum.
So the member nations of the G-20 today form about 80 to 85 percent of the world’s economic output, right? So this is—and then this is a forum that India is now putting on display, you know, for the world and chairing it.
And so, you know, there are two things that come into play for India with regard to this.
One is that India, as a rising power over the last, you know, few years, has been in the position of being aggressively courted by Western countries. So you’ve had, you know, the United States reach out to India, France, the U.K. India has been feted on the world stage.
On the other hand, you have India as a member of the Global South. India’s still a developing country, and it is a member of the Global South, and there are—the G-20 itself has some very important Global South members: China, Indonesia, Brazil, for example. So when India looks at the G-20, what is sees is an opportunity to essentially present itself as a leading voice for the Global South, but that also has very strong partnerships with the West, right? And so that’s the role that India has been trying to play over this last year.
Now, what it has done—or, rather, I should say what Mr. Modi has done—has been quite canny, because on one hand it has, you know, been cognizant of this role—it’s taken it and presented its—you know, its status to the world—but it’s also done it domestically, right? So India has used the G-20 this past year to essentially shore up support for Mr. Modi and for the BJP government, and create a buzz almost around the G-20. So when the summit happens this weekend, what we are seeing is the spectacle of the G-20 being essentially a national extravaganza, which to be honest I never thought I’d use those words with regard to the G-20 but that’s what it is. You’ve had over two hundred meetings in many, many cities—over fifty-six cities in India. You have schoolchildren learning about the G-20. You can get a certificate when you learn about the G-20. You have these posters plastered all over the cities with the G-20 on one side and Mr. Modi’s portrait on the other. And what, you know, the BJP has been doing by showing this is saying: Well, look, India is today a rising power. India is being feted by the world. And Mr. Modi is the person who is shepherding India’s rise. And so in that way, both internationally and domestically I think it’s become this big opportunity for India.
But the question, of course, you know, Mike, is, you know, what is India going to gain from this? Well, one is, if you look at the agenda for the G-20, you can see that a lot of it has to do with Global South priorities. So is India going to be able to push those priorities forward on climate financing, on multilateral development bank reforms, things that are important to developing countries like tripling sustainable lending that will benefit poor and developing countries? Can it ensure food security? Food insecurity has been exacerbated by the—by the Ukraine crisis. So is India going to be able to shepherd a consensus through on that? So these are all things to watch out for and that India is hoping that will emerge, you know, at the end of the forum with a statement that will essentially bring these two blocs together.
FROMAN: Manjari, before we—before we move on, you referred to that this is an opportunity for India in many respects to show leadership and lead the Global South, which is an increasingly used phrase for countries that neither seem to be particularly aligned with the West or particularly aligned with Russia and China at the moment. How real is the Global South as a caucus within the G-20? How unified is it?
And how do you think about the G-20 coming just on the heels of the BRICS summit, where the BRICS expanded, added a number of other countries? What role does the G-20 play vis-à-vis the BRICS?
And if I can add one more question, it was interesting to see that President Xi decided not to attend the G-20. Now, not so unusual for President Putin to miss it; a bit more unusual for the Chinese leader not to—to miss it. How do you interpret that in the context of the effort to reinforce the BRICS?
MILLER: Yeah. I think those are really interesting questions and they are related, right?
So in terms of is the Global South a unified bloc, in a word, no. It’s not a unified bloc. It never has been a unified bloc. But it is also true that there are issues that are important to the Global South that the West has traditionally neglected, right? I mean, one of the reasons the BRICS came into existence was because it was a protest against the existing structures of global governance, which that, you know, the countries that founded the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa—thought were rigged against developing countries, right? So there is definitely a sense—even though there is not unity on issues, there’s definitely a sense that the Global South exists as a grouping that is different from Western countries.
And you can see this even with regard to the Ukraine crisis, right? It’s been the Ukraine crisis—when it first happened, was a huge crisis for the West, was a huge crisis for Western countries. And it took Global South members—and even today, there’s not consensus on it. But it took Global South members a little longer to see the ramifications of the crisis. So, you know, in terms of food insecurity, the Ukraine crisis matters to the Global South. But if you talk about, you know, the Russian-Ukrainian territorial claims, does it matter as much to Asian countries as it does to European countries? No, not as much, right? So there is not unity on those issues.
So, yes, it, I would say, does exist as a grouping. But, no, it does not agree on every single issue.
I think Mr. Xi staying away from the meeting is really interesting. It’s a very interesting choice. It’s the first summit that he will be missing since he took tenure as the president of China. China also claims that it’s a developing country, and I think this is where it gets interesting. Because China’s a rising power, China on one hand is claiming competition with the United States but China has not stopped claiming that it is a member of the Global South. And so this question of leadership does come up. I mean, who is the leading country in the Global South? Is it China or is it India? And so when—you know, if you look at what India has been doing with the G-20, which is that it’s taking a very routine presidency, right—(laughs)—it’s just a rotating presidency—but that’s not how it’s being perceived in India. It’s being perceived as this big opportunity to showcase India’s credentials.
And of course, you know, China has been watching this. So for Mr. Xi not to show up to the summit is one—it is a bit of a snub for Mr. Modi. You know, yes, we’re not going to come to this. We’re not going to send President Xi to attend the summit, you know, which has been clearly so important to you for the whole year. But also the fact that you’re bringing the leaders of twenty very important countries together, and a benefit of having these leaders together are the meetings on the sidelines, right? So President Biden is going to be meeting with Mr. Modi. I believe Mr. Modi is scheduled to meet the king of Saudi Arabia as well. And so the fact that Mr. Xi is not coming is not simply a fact that he’s not attending the G-20; it means also that he is not open to these—to these side meetings that could be really, really beneficial.
FROMAN: So if you’re Prime Minister Modi at the moment, you’ve got—you’re going into this weekend. It’s unclear there’s going to be a consensus declaration. You’ve just been snubbed by President Xi. Putin is not coming; maybe that makes it easier to have a conversation about Ukraine, but my guess is they will still prevent it from happening in terms of a major statement on Ukraine. What constitutes success at this point for Prime Minister Modi?
MILLER: That’s a—that’s a really good question. I think in some ways India would say that it’s already been successful, right? So you could argue that the G-20 has already been successful for India.
So, for example, you know, I think last month the G-20 digital economy ministers, you know, working group actually reached an agreement with the UNDP to have—to adopt a description of digital public infrastructure as a set of shared digital systems that can be secure and interoperable, that can be held to open standards, and promote access to services. Now, this is big because India has groundbreaking digital public infrastructure, and this was a linchpin of India’s agenda is to say that, look, we’ve done DPI and we would like to share DPI with other countries. So that’s a success.
You also have the Global Initiative on Digital Health, which has been successful. And there you’ve had a partnership with the WHO on the need to actually have, in the wake of COVID-19, a national digital health infrastructure that has appropriate governance. So that’s happened as well.
Domestically, it’s definitely reaped, you know, a boon for Mr. Modi in terms of elevating his profile and pushing his agenda. So, you know, to give you a very small—(laughs)—but telling example, you know, there are being booklets distributed about India as Bharat, which is the—you know, the name for India in many Indian languages. Now, this is really interesting because the Indian opposition, a coalition of twenty-eight parties, just came together to fight elections next year, and they call themselves the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or INDIA. And now Mr. Modi—(laughs)—has these booklets on the G-20 that says, oh, actually, using the word “India” is really colonial; we should be saying Bharat. So in some ways it's already been successful.
So I think where it’ll be—what’ll be interesting to watch is if there is a consensus statement. And, Mike, I know you and I had a little bit of disagreement about this, on how important a consensus statement is. I happen to think it’s important, and I think it’s important because if India is unable to produce an agreement at the summit it’s going to be the first summit to end without a leaders declaration. And since India assumed the G-20 presidency, there has not been a single joint communique from any of the group’s ministerial meetings because of Ukraine that has reached consensus, right? Now, if you’re a country that says, look, we are the country that can actually be the bridge between the Global South caucus and the Western grouping, and we are unable to bring these countries together, well, if you can’t produce a statement that actually speaks to that, you’re a little bit shooting yourself in the foot with the goal that you set for yourself, right? So I think in that sense, if it doesn’t produce a consensus statement, yes, it will be telling.
FROMAN: Thank you.
Zoe, China. Back in 2008-2009 it was the U.S. and China working very closely together to help manage the global financial crisis. Now it’s hard to imagine that kind of cooperation happening between the two, let alone with the other G-20 powers. There was even a brief moment there when people were talking about the G-2 rather than the G-20. What is China looking to get out of this? And how do you interpret President Xi’s decision not to attend?
LIU: You know, Mike, you are right. It is—at this moment in particular, it is difficult to imagine the United States and China would play any constructive role altogether at a global forum such as G-20.
And just I’ll start with answering your second question, with regard to how I interpret President Xi’s absence. I think perhaps we can interpret it from three perspectives.
The first perspective would be China is facing severe domestic economic challenges from a lot of—from several sectors. And you know, I happen to be one of those economists who believe that Xi Jinping, although he did not plant the economic bomb, he shortened the fuse.
And the second reason to interpret his absence is that perhaps he faces a lot of domestic challenges in terms of the way that he manages domestic politics as well as economics.
And then the third way to interpret it, perhaps, is related to India’s relationship with China, and the dispute between these two countries since President Xi Jinping came to power has been building up. And just a few days ago, China’s Ministry of Natural Resources published a new version of map which triggered strong protests from China and, obviously, Chinese people—among the Chinese people, especially about the netizens. They tend to have a very strong nationalistic response to India’s response.
And a part of them, these three interpretations, I think it also matters to think about why he put Li Qiang to visit. And to be honest, I think having Li Qiang attending the G-20 summit instead of Xi Jinping perhaps is not necessarily a bad thing, because if you look at Li Qiang’s recent diplomatic activities he has actually been quite busy. In June, he visited Germany and he also—he was also meeting with—visiting American delegations. He also met with the IMF, met the director. And from many perspective, he has been sending a strong signal that China—or, in other word(s), instead of having Xi Jinping sending a strong signal, the government is focusing on having Li Qiang send this unified signal that China is very much about reform and open up. And that is not necessarily the trajectory that Xi Jinping has been leading the Chinese economy. So from that perspective, I think Li—having Li Qiang attending is not necessarily a bad thing.
And then, finally, what is China seeking to get from it? I would think that perhaps given the current economic conundrum that China is facing, and given that Li Qiang in the capacity of the leader of the government, of the State Council, perhaps the message is that China really seeks to send is that China is open up for business, really wanted to invest—really wanted to invite international investors. And a strong message there perhaps is also to seek cooperation with other countries, specifically with regard to economy and sustainable development.
FROMAN: China has gone from being really one of the drivers of the G-20 back then—again, during the global financial crisis—to almost being a spoiler when it comes to both climate change and then, of course, their support for Russia in the Ukraine. How does that—how does that work to China’s interests? And how does China view the G-20, as a—either as a useful or as an irritating forum in terms of dealing with issues that, like climate change or like geopolitics, that it would prefer not to deal with?
LIU: You know, like, that’s an excellent question. If I were Xi Jinping, I would be thinking that perhaps this is not the platform that welcome me the most. And by not attending it, probably at a personal level, I will suffer from less stress. But if we are viewing either from China’s national interest, I would actually think that Xi Jinping’s absence from it is a big loss for China, for China’s national interest, and in particular for the Chinese people’s national interest as well. Because of the slowing down of economic growth of China actually directly translate into other deterioration of the life of the Chinese people—Chinese household balance sheet, as well as the way that—how much they can consume. So from that perspective, it is a loss for Chinese people as well as China’s national interest.
But I would also want to say that I really think that if he’s absent from G-20, it sends not a good signal. In the sense that he’s already—President Xi Jinping has already been doing a lot of things signaling that he actually detracted or retrieved from Deng Xiaoping’s reform and open up. And if we remember, Deng Xiaoping—for Deng Xiaoping, his reform and open up is, first and foremost, open up to the United States. And he himself said if not opening up to the United States opening up to any other countries would it be useless. But President Xi Jinping seems to—especially if he attended the BRICS summit and choose to not attend the G-20—I think it sends a signal, or actually even if this not his attention, it sends the signal that, well, it seems that you are not too much interested in participating this G-20 platform to talk with broader countries, or to talk with the so-called—you know, the global riches, and try to figure out a way how to solve the common problems that are not just the global riches are facing, but also the Global South.
FROMAN: The irony, of course, is that when the G-20 was designated as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, it was, in fact, an effort to recognize and bring in China as the second-largest economy in the world and recognize that it had a seat at the table. It was really—not just China. Also India, Brazil, and others. But first and foremost, the recognition of China’s role in the global economy. That was really one of the motivating forces behind the elevation of the G-20 to begin with.
Heidi, let’s go to Europe, the U.S., and then in particular, an area that you follow very closely. The G-20 has always been a very important forum for dealing with issues around the reform of the international financial institutions, the IMF, the World Bank, the other multilateral development banks. As Manjari said, there’s a lot of expectation here about climate finance, about development, finance. What do you expect to happen at this summit on those issues? And what is Europe and what is the United States looking to get out of this summit?
CREBO-REDIKER: So, I would start with the sort of breaking down and really focusing on the Biden administration. What is strategic and then what are some of the specific objectives for this G-20? And I think, big picture, this G-20 is particularly strategic. We do have a sharp political—geopolitical backdrop. And I think President Biden will want to support Prime Minister Modi to try and make the G-20, as a platform, more inclusive, and really to cement U.S. commitment as a partner to emerging markets. And I do think that President Xi not showing up is a big deal, because, you know, as you rightly pointed out, the U.S. upgraded the G-20 after the global financial crisis. And I think that Xi is trying to downgrade the platform itself by not showing up.
So it was, indeed, a slight to Modi. It’s a huge opportunity for India and, I think, for the U.S. And I do think it’s also a loss for China. But that was the decision that’s been taken. The India bilat that we’ll have ahead of the G-20 between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden on the world stage is a great opportunity for both to step into a vacuum that Xi has left in a key relationship. So I think that that particular bilat, there’ll be many step-away bilats as well that won’t be—we’ll hear about some of them, maybe not about others. But the U.S. will also support India’s putting forward the permanent new member of the African Union. It’s a counter, or complement, to the BRICS expansion. And I think it sends a very strong signal that India wants to make this a platform for the so-called Global South.
Again, to the point that was raised about sort of between the BRICS summit and ASEAN Summit and the G-20, the release of this—of China’s new official map, which expands China’s borders to include parts of India and other neighbors, and even Russia. You sort of wonder what they were thinking. As to specific U.S. priorities, I think Russia-Ukraine is one of the ones at the top of the agenda. We’ve already spoken about that. I agree there’s unlikely to be an agreement on a communique. China and Russia don’t accept the proposed language. So that is an issue. But I do also think that Putin and Xi not attending could make it easier for the U.S., and Europe, and others to talk about Ukraine with nonaligned countries, to maintain and build on some of the coalitions that are supportive of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. They’re security issues, but also those have spillovers and consequences for the global economy, including inflation and supply chain. So they do very much belong on the G-20 agenda.
I’m not too caught up in the chair summary versus communique. I think wordsmithing can often be meaningless. It’s unlikely for any practical change for Ukraine to emerge from any wordsmithing because, in fact, China and Russia are on the other side. India’s priorities are also to support developing countries. And part of that is reshaping and scaling up the World Bank of the MDBs. So the evolution of the framework that has been discussed at many of these G-20 meetings to increase their lending capacity and balance sheet flexibility, concessional support for poor countries. And as part of that, addressing climate change finance and climate and transition and adaptation finance. So for some of the—some of the financial support, you’d still need the U.S. Congress to cooperate in funding the MDBs, and the IMF.
The other thing is debt distress. It’s been at the top of the agenda. It was at the top of the agenda for Bali, for low-income countries. Another reason why China might not want to show up, because they are in fact not a constructive player in terms of sovereign debt restructuring, multilateral debt restructuring within the G-20s common framework plus-plus, because it includes additional countries that were not originally envisioned. And the failure of this mechanism to work was actually kind of a blow to the G-20. But it’s something where China has really played the—like is really rained on the party here. (Laughs.)
IMF quota reform will come up. And I think there really will be an affirmative agenda that Biden will try and put forward, evolving from the G-7 principles for quality infrastructure investment. Again, not an outright counter to China’s BRI, but it is a counter to coercive and unsustainable lending, as they say. So I think Biden has announced that there’s going to be an announcement. There is a partnership for global infrastructure investment at the G-7, PGII—which is a very unfortunate acronym, but it is what it is. And again, it’s will the U.S. and the G-7 partners be able to deliver on infrastructure and on climate finance? Will it be more than just rhetoric? They want to see if the dollars and the euros are going to follow.
FROMAN: Got it. Let’s open it up for questions from the participants. I think you all know how to do this. Monica, if you have any instructions for them, but raise your hand and we’ll look in the chat, I guess. Raise your hand for questions and we will—we will take them.
(Gives queuing instructions.)
FROMAN: Here we go. Barry Wood (sp). And could you please identify—as you unmute yourself, please identify yourself and state your question. Thank you.
Q: Mike, thank you very much. I’m going to pass on this, because my question was answered in the presentation.
Q: Hold on a minute. There was one mention of Indonesia.
FROMAN: Michael, could you just—could you just identify yourself?
Q: Oh, yeah. Michael Mosettig, PBS Online NewsHour.
There was one mention of Indonesia. Is this going to be a minor kerfuffle or have potential ramifications that the only ASEAN country that Biden is going to visit is Vietnam? And he’s snubbing Indonesia by not going to the ASEAN meeting. Is this going to be more than a matter of hurt feelings by Joko? Or does this have potential ramifications?
FROMAN: Heidi, you want to take that one?
REBO-REDIKER: Sure. I mean, I don’t think it was a surprise that that President Biden did not attend this ASEAN summit. President Xi also did not attend this summit. He sent Premier Li as well. And this is a—this is an important trip for the president to go to Vietnam and really try to, again, highlight some of the important relationships in the region. Vietnam has become an increasingly core partner for the United States in the Indo-Pacific. And so I think that sending the vice president to Indonesia should not be viewed as a snub, in the least.
FROMAN: Danila Galperovich.
Q: Thank you very much, indeed. My question is to—
FROMAN: Can you identify yourself, please?
Q: I’m the correspondent of the Voice of America. Russian service.
My question to who would be willing to answer, upcoming meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un, which is the food for comment in United States and in Europe. Do you think this cooperation, and cooperation in specific weapons trade, would be discussed in G-20, or in Quad, if Quad will be gathering on the sides? Because this is kind of more or less unprecedented, that the permanent member of the Security Council is cooperating with a country which was sanctioned by the Security Council. Thank you.
CREBO-REDIKER: So I’ll take a stab at that, if no one else will. I don’t think that the—I don’t think that the increased cooperation between North Korea and Russia is a surprise. It’s been on everyone’s radar. It’s been flagged by the Biden administration. It’s a huge concern. We might never know if it’s been discussed on the—in some of the side conversation at a leaders’ level. But I would be very surprised if it’s not. You also have, you know, the most recent gathering at Camp David between South Korea, Japan, and the United States, and a very groundbreaking, historic trilateral agreement on security and cooperation. And I think that that—you’ll have members of that group there as well, in addition to the Quad. So I would be surprised if it didn’t come up. It’s not the primary topic of conversation at the G-20, but these are the opportunities that leaders have to have important conversations, that we might never hear about.
FROMAN: Why don’t we take a couple and then we’ll go back to the panelists. Kathy Yang (sp) and then R.D.
Q: Hello, can you hear me?
Q: Kathy Yang (sp) from the Voice of America.
I have a question a little bit, like, maybe away from the topic. It’s about China and India. And the panelists talk about Modi is going to use this opportunity to show the world the potential of India. So I’m just wondering, it seems to me that India now has all the ingredients China once had for its success. Now China’s economy is facing headwinds, but India has a much more bright future. So I’m just wondering, can India be next China? And if not, what would stop it from it? Yeah, thank you.
FROMAN: Let’s hear from R.D. and then, Manjari, maybe you can take that one. R.D.
Q: Yeah. Thank you for the briefing.
And I have question about India’s position on food security, because I can tell Turkey’s action, Russian action, or U.S. action to try to continue to grain export from Ukraine. But on the other hand, I wonder what India’s position is, because India can export wheat, or grain, or rice. But these days, India just, like, banned the export of rice, because of food security issues. So, like, I want to know how India is trying to align with Global South and represent the Global South for the food security issues. Thank you.
Oh, it’s Rumiko (sp) from Hitachi. Thank you.
FROMAN: Great. Manjari, you want to take this?
MILLER: Can you hear me?
FROMAN: Now we can. Yeah.
MILLER: Excellent. Yes, OK.
I think the first question is—(laughs)—just, you know, it’s a big question because I think a lot of people, not just people in the policy world but even academics, are asking this question. Which is, can—will India be the—be the—you know, get to China’s position, or where China was prior to its economy tanking and real estate prices going up? So I do think that India has problems. And I do think that the Indian government is cognizant of those problems. So on one hand, India has an advantage that China did not, which is that it has a young population, right? So China—you know, China’s aging population has become a big cause for concern in China. And India has this young demographic and this opportunity to take advantage of the fact that its, you know, youth are going to be its future.
The problem, of course, with this is that India also has to create jobs for that youth. And the Modi government has been struggling with unemployment. So that’s one big issue that, yes, you know, can India take advantage of its demographic boom? And the answer is, it can if it creates jobs. And so far, the Indian government has struggled with job creation. I think there’s the other part of it, which is, you know, there’s a really, really big gender gap in India, to an extent that does not exist in in China. And so I think the last I saw, it’s something like only 25 percent, I would like to say, of India’s labor force is female. I mean that is shockingly low. (Laughs.) It’s really shockingly low for a country that that is going to be—you know, is a rising power, or going to be a great power. I mean, can you really rise if, you know, you have such low numbers in your labor?
So that’s another issue. So the bottom line is, I think it’s too early to say that India is definitely on the cusp of achieving, you know, great-powerdom, so to speak, simply because it has all of these structural issues, it has economic issues that are really deeply ingrained. That the government is aware of, right, and is trying to address. Literacy is another one. Education level’s another one. India has really, really big problems with its education system at all levels, not just in elementary schools but all the way up to the university level. And so, you know, to address all of these will be crucial, you know, before we can make predictions about India’s trajectory.
The second question, Mike, was about?
FROMAN: Food security.
MILLER: Food security, yes. So, India is extremely concerned about this, as you noted, you know, because of the—because of Russia pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. We have seen food prices go up around the world. In July India imposed a ban on the export of non-basmati white rice. And that came after a ban on the export of broken rice, which was last year. And it’s because in India you have rising food prices, really high inflation, and there is massive fear of rice shortages. And all of this—I mean, this is not good in general. But all of this is even more precarious given the fact that Mr. Modi is heading into national elections next year. So—and, you know, food prices are something that resonate with the Indian voter much, much more than the G-20 or India’s leadership and the G-20 ever will. So in short, yes, India is very, very concerned about food insecurity.
FROMAN: But, Manjari, just on that point, I think what’s interesting is—of course, they’re concerned from a domestic point of view. They’re also trying to put forth their leadership of the Global South. By putting these export restraints on food, they’re actually exacerbating the food security crisis for other developing countries. Does that get debated within India? And how do they reconcile those positions?
MILLER: I don’t think they have reconciled those positions. I think that remains, you know, the paradox of Indian economic policy. I think that you’re absolutely correct, it exacerbates the situation. And India has put food insecurity on the G-20 agenda, right? So that’s actually on the G-20 agenda. And one of the issues that came up was—in one of the ministerial meetings—was that there was a failure to reach consensus because they simply could not agree on the wording around food insecurity, which was related to the fact that there’s been instability caused by the Ukraine crisis. So I think that is an issue. I think what India is doing right now is looking to the short term on this, and domestically this is such a big issue that India is putting its domestic interests first.
FROMAN: Got it.
Let’s take two more. Somani (ph) and Tracy. Somani (ph). (Pause.) Can you unmute?
Q: Hi. Can you hear me?
Q: Great. You asked the rice question, Jim (sp), so thanks for that. I’ll ask my other questions.
What signals do you expect, if any, on climate from the G-20? Considering that it’s coming just before a contentious General Assembly and an even more contentious climate COP? And what do you expect China to announce, not at the G-20, obviously, but perhaps at the GA, on climate? Question for any of you.
FROMAN: OK, and let’s take Tracy and then go back to the panel.
Q: Hi. Thank you. This is Tracy Wilkinson from the Los Angeles Times in the D.C. bureau.
That was actually my—related to my question was climate as well. Heidi raised the questions of will there be more than rhetoric here? Will the euros and dollars follow? And so what’s the answer? Do you think there will be serious action on climate out of this G-20 meeting? Thanks.
FROMAN: Great. Who wants to take that? Manjari, you want to start, and then Heidi. And then I may make a—Zoe, you’re welcome as well. And I may make a comment about that as well.
MILLER: I think I’m going to punt to Zoe on this one, on China and what it’s expected to announce on climate.
LIU: Yeah, thank you. I’m happy to chime in here. And I think the biggest contention, as far as I’m concerned, for climate here is that Saudi Arabia actually insisted or wanted to put in a line with regard to the use of fossil fuels as a transition fuel. I mean, we can debate about what we consider as a fossil fuel, to what extent natural gas is green energy or not. But European—as far as the European Union considers, which is also as a bloc, joined—as a bloc is a G-20 member. So from that perspective, I think we already have a very, very significant player, and a very important new member of BRICS, who want—who also have a big interest to use the renminbi in the pricing of not just oil, but perhaps natural gas and other critical minerals as well. So from that perspective, I do think China would want to emphasize its position with regard to the equal transition for sustainable development and renewable future, but then at the same time perhaps there is—there is unlikely to have any consensus, especially with regard to climate financing.
CREBO-REDIKER: So, just to take on the specific of—the specifics of whether dollars, in euros, yen, additional currency will—you know, will be put on the table, I think the U.S. in particular is looking to commit funds, you know, from the IMF, and be able to transition those funds to concessional lending facilities for low-income countries, and have part of those fund climate transition. And have the World Bank really step up and take the lead, as it falls really within its capacity. And, you know, by bolstering and redirecting what the World Bank will focus on, I think climate’s going to take a much, much greater priority than it has in the past.
And with an expanded balance sheet—again, that’s going to be subject to Congress on the U.S. side—but the intention is really for the two main multilateral institutions to be able to commit far more than they have in the past. And I think, you know, it’s to be seen whether the real action will come out of this meeting or in the IMF/World Bank meetings that are in Marrakech in October.
The other just thing to note is with any multilateral forum where you have both consumers and suppliers, you have—you know, you have different interests there with regard to commodities and to oil and gas in particular. So I think you’re not necessarily going to see this agreement—this G-20 result in a great coming together on climate. But I do think I would be—I would look to the World Bank/IMF meetings to see if we can actually see some dollars on the table.
MILLER: Yeah. And, just quickly to jump in on fossil fuels, I mean, India has said—I think the prime minister said on many occasions that, you know, India is not going to compromise its energy needs by committing to cut coal usage, particularly because India’s average per person emissions are apparently among the lowest in the world. So I think fossil fuels has—will become a sticking point.
FROMAN: And that’s a really big issue, Manjari, because I think as the Emiratis head towards the COP in November—the big U.N. climate change conference—there’s a big issue around what is the role of fossil fuels going forward? What’s the role of fossil fuel subsidies? Again, in the past, the G-20’s been a useful forum because you have most of the major emitters there in the room, the major economies in the room, for clearing through some of these issues and seeing the foundation for an agreement, potentially, at the U.N., in the larger group. In this case, it appears that not only are the traditional parties that that stand against issues like that, like Saudi Arabia and Russia, but actually China’s now being more explicit in its opposition to disciplines on fossil fuels as well. And so, to your point, this is really, again, questioning the role of the G-20 as a forum for managing these kinds of issues, like climate change, that have—that need some kind of mechanism to bring the major parties together to work through the issues prior to—prior to—again, it has implications not just for the G-20, but for the COP as well, potentially.
MILLER: Right. I mean, I think this is where a consensus statement also becomes really important because, if you remember, I might just emphasize your point, in 2016, you know, that’s when the Paris agreement is announced, after the summit by President Obama, and Xi. And so, of course, the G-20 has played this role in the past. And so if it doesn’t in the future, what does that say for the future of the forum?
FROMAN: Exactly. Any other—any other questions coming from the participants online? All right.
Well, once again, I will direct you to CFR.org, where you will see a number of other pieces on the G-20 and other related issues. You can also look for work on India, on China, and on the international economic system that these fellows have worked on before. And the transcript and video from this briefing will be up on that site in the near future as well. Thanks very much for joining us and look forward to touching base, perhaps after the G-20 this weekend. Thank you.