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Malcolm in the Middle at the G20

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Reform of the global economy seems so three years ago.

In 2014 Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey managed to push through an ambitious agenda that called on G20 countries to take measures that would increase global growth by 2% above the IMF projected growth rates.

What might have been a useful consensus was disrupted by President Obama who decided to strut his stuff by calling on the Abbott government to save the Great Barrier Reef.

These days, economic measures seem to hardly even matter.

German Chancellor Merkel has decided to use this week’s G20 meeting in Hamburg to launch an attack on Donald Trump for his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

At the same time the membership will demand that Trump saves the global economy by implementing his stimulus programme and save the world from annihilation by neutralising the North Korean nuclear threat.

European leaders’ condescension and barely disguised contempt when it comes to President Trump means that the meeting is likely to be fractious and unproductive.

At the present time the American news media seems focused on the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin through the prism of domestic politics and the investigation into links between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Apart from this, the North Korean test of an intercontinental ballistic missile has overshadowed possible discussions of counter-terrorism.

The Russians will be pleased with the developments in Korea because this means that there will be less focus on Syria and a possible political settlement.

The Australian Prime Minister will wade into the middle of all this with a dinky little proposal that measures be taken against social media platforms to deter them from hosting radical terrorist groups.

If the usual course is followed, this proposal will be duck-shoved off to a suitable officials’ group.

Mr Turnbull also wants to continue Australia’s campaign for free trade which will bring him into direct conflict with the US President who, two months ago, ordered a review of steel imports which is widely seen as a precondition for protectionist measures.

It’s possible that the report of the review will appear on the eve of the G20 meeting and that it will single out China and Korea as targets for such measures.

This bleeds back into the problem of North Korea where South Korea is an ally and China is a key player in any solution.

Both these countries will use North Korea as a bargaining chip in a trade context.

Malcolm Turnbull’s call for free trade will be strongly supported by China and Korea.

In that event Australia may be seen as instrumental in isolating the US, our most important ally.

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