Leaders from the world's top economies reached a broad agreement at a summit in China to coordinate macroeconomic policies and oppose protectionism. But as Ivor Bennett reports, few concrete proposals emerged to meet growing challenges to globalisation and free trade.
It wasn't perhaps the most appropriate way to begin a summit focused on a flagging global economy. But after the extravagance of the opening ceremony, it seems G20 leaders do have something to celebrate. An agreement, in principle at least, on how to kickstart growth. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING SAYING: "G20 countries should help each other and coordinate more closely on macro-economic policies; use various effective policy tools, such as fiscal, monetary and structural reforms. " Markets though are sceptical over whether the actions will match the words. (SOUNDBITE) (German) MONEY MARKET STRATEGIST WITH ODDO SEYDLER BANK AG, OLIVER ROTH, SAYING: "We have a situation where the central banks are the driving force behind the global economy. They keep its head above water, so to speak. But that will not be durable. Politics has to step in, And in this case, with decisions that are going to drive the global economy forward like structural reforms. But there needs to be a consensus, and I do not see one." There was some consensus on the sidelines at least. Britain's new prime minister Theresa May identifying Australia as a potential partner in life after Brexit. Global trade, though, hasn't been such a comfortable topic. China earlier issuing a warning against protectionism after having one investment deal blocked in Australia, and another suspended by Britain. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, CCLA INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JAMES BEVAN, SAYING: "One of the great challenges of the 21st century is how do developed markets compete with the much lower cost economies of the emerging world? China certainly worries that the political response may be protectionism. That would lead to the end of free trade. It would lead to a spike in inflation." Leaders did agree to oppose protectionism And pledged to work together to tackle oversupply in industries like steel. No easy task - the greater challenge though is to make it stick.