What to expect from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires

Who will meet MBS? Will there be a breakthrough in the US-China trade war? What groups are leading protests?

All eyes will be on Buenos Aires, Argentina on Thursday and Friday as leaders from 19 of the world’s top economies, as well as representatives from the European Union gather for the 13th G20 summit.

This year’s meeting comes as tensions grow between China and the United States over trade differences, a conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalates and pressure mounts to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to account for the murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Here’s what you should watch for at this year’s summit:

Who will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?

The Saudi crown prince, also known by his initials MBS, landed in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, two days before the G20 is set to begin.

It will be his first chance to potentially meet Western leaders since the murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi in Turkey. After offering several contradicting accounts, the kingdom admitted last month Khashoggi had been killed in its Istanbul consulate on October 2 and his body dismembered.


Riyadh has said that Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey said was ordered at the highest level of Saudi leadership. Erdogan ruled out King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, however.

The murder has strained relations between Saudi Arabia and several other countries, with rights groups and politicians calling for Prince Mohammed to be held to account.

Human Rights Watch submitted a request to Argentina’s federal judge on Monday, asking the country to investigate Prince Mohammed for possible war crimes in Yemen and the murder of Khashoggi. On Wednesday, a judge asked Argentina’s foreign ministry to seek information from Turkey, Yemen and the International Criminal Court.

Among the few leaders Prince Mohammed is expected to meet is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The pair will discuss the killing of Khashoggi, but the “main aim” would be developing Russia-Saudi relations, said Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.

Handout picture released by the G20 Press Office showing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival to Buenos Aires [Handout/G20 Press Office/AFP] 
Handout picture released by the G20 Press Office showing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival to Buenos Aires [Handout/G20 Press Office/AFP] 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German daily Sueffeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday that Prince Mohammed requested to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip during the summit.

UN Secretary-General said on Wednesday he is willing to meet Prince Mohammed at the summit to discuss an end to the war in Yemen. 

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced he will meet Prince Mohammed during the G20 summit. 

“I’ve always been very clear about the issue of Saudi Arabia and I will inevitably have the opportunity to discuss it with the Saudi crown prince on the sidelines of the G20,” he said at a press conference with his Argentine counterpart. 


On Tuesday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said there are no plans for a meeting between MBS and President Donald Trump at the summit. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said she could not rule out possible interaction between MBS and Trump at the G20.

Trump said on Thursday, he would have been willing to meet Prince Mohammed, but no such meeting had been scheduled. 

Although Trump admitted last week that Prince Mohammed may have known about the murder, the president said the US will remain a “steadfast partner” with the kingdom. The US placed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals allegedly involved in Khashoggi’s murder.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Thursday that accusations against MBS of war crimes and torture may be discussed during the G20 summit. 

Rights groups have also vowed to protest against Prince Mohammed’s appearance at the G20.

2. Trump-Xi meeting: Will there be a breakthrough?

Trump will host a dinner for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Saturday where the pair are expected to try to come some sort of compromise on trade.


It will be the first meeting between the leaders of the world’s biggest economies since Washington imposed tariffs on $250bn in Chinese imports and China retaliated with its own measures.

China hopes to convince Washington to hold off on hiking tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on January 1.

Although officials from both countries have expressed scepticism, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday that the summit offers “an opportunity to break through what has been disappointing discussions” over the last several months. 


“In his view, there is a good possibility that a deal can be made and [Trump] is open to it,” Kudlow told reporters.

But Kudlow cautioned that if conditions are not met on a number of issues, including intellectual property theft and other practices, the president is prepared to hike tariffs on Chinese imports.

On Thursday, Trump signalled he was open to making a deal with China, but was not sure he wanted one. 

“I am open to making a deal, but frankly, I like the deal we have right now,” Trump told reporters as he departed for Argentina. 

For China’s part, Beijing’s ambassador to Washington said on Tuesday that his country is going into the G20 hoping for a deal, but warning of dire consequences if US hardliners try to separate the two economies.

Speaking to Reuters news agency before heading to join Chinese President Xi Jinping’s delegation G20, Cui Tiankai said China and the United States had a shared responsibility to cooperate in the interests of the global economy. 


Asked whether he though hardliners in the White House were seeking to separate the closely linked US and Chinese economies, Cui said he did not think it was possible or helpful to do so, adding “I don’t know if people really realise the possible consequences – the impact, the negative impact – if there is such a decoupling.”

“The lessons of history are still there. In the last century, we had two world wars, And in between them, the Great Depression. I don’t think anybody should really try to have a repetition of history. These things should never happen again, so people have to act in a responsible way.”

3. No Trump-Putin meeting 

Trump cancelled his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin as he departed for the G20 summit. 

In a tweet on Thursday, the US president said he made the decision based on the escalating tensions between Russian and Ukraine. 

Kiev declared martial law in several of the country’s regions this week after Russia seized three Ukrainian ships near the Crimean peninsula. 

“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously schedule meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump tweeted, adding that he looks forward to a “meaningful” summit as soon as the situation is resolved. 

The Kremlin said it had not been notified of Trump’s decision. 

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and now controls both sides of the Kerch Strait where the incident took place.

The pair were expected to discuss the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after Trump said in October the United States would quit the agreement because Russia was not honouring it.

US officials had hoped the G20 meeting between the two leaders would have been a continuation of their discussion in Helsinki. 


At that closed-door meeting, which took place in July, the two leaders said they touched on a range of issues, including international security and trade.

The Helsinki summit was overshadowed though when Trump failed to challenge Putin over interference in the US elections. He was later forced to admit he misspoke and clarify that he does accept the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia did meddle in the 2016 presidential elections.

4. ‘No to the G20’: Anti-capitalist and other protests expected

As with other G20 summits, anti-capitalist and other protests are expected throughout conference. 


The major demonstrations will kick off with the People’s Summit on Wednesday. Participants of the alternative meeting will discuss a number of issues from food security to how to combat climate change. The People’s Summit will continue through Friday when a large demonstration is expected.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women whose children and grandchildren were disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War, are also expected to protest on Thursday.

Rights groups also plan to protest the potential appearance of Saudi Prince Mohammed over the kingdom’s role in Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Members of social groups gather to protest against the Group 20 summit, in Buenos Aires [Marcos Brindicci/Reuters]
Members of social groups gather to protest against the Group 20 summit, in Buenos Aires [Marcos Brindicci/Reuters]

Argentina has declared Friday a public holiday and suspended train service on Friday and Saturday.

The government, which faces near daily protests over its economic austerity programme, has vowed to crack down on protests, saying “illegal acts” will not be permitted.

The event will be guarded by 22,000 police and 700 security ministry agents, and the government has been in contact with a number of foreign security services, including those in the United States, Britain, Brazil, Italy and Spain, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told reporters on Tuesday,

Bullrich also told local media that residents should leave the city until the summit concludes.

5. Signing of the USMCA

The United States, Mexico and Canada are expected to sign a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Friday, which has been dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). 


The agreement, announced in October, updates the 1994 NAFTA agreement and promises to lead to “freer, fairer markets, and to robust economic growth”.

It is unclear who will sign the deal behalf of each of the countries. Canadian media reported on Tuesday that the final text of the agreement was also still being hammered out.

If the agreement is signed, it will then be sent to each of the country’s legislatures where it must be ratified before it can enter into force.

6. May to seek post-Brexit trading future

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will use the G20 to sell Britain’s post-Brexit trading future outside the EU.

But Trump has done her no favours by mocking a hard-fought withdrawal agreement negotiated between London and Brussels.

After a year and a half of arduous negotiations, the 27 leaders took less than half an hour to rubber-stamp a 600-page treaty on Sunday that sets the terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on March 29 and a 26-page declaration outlining ambitions for a future free trade relationship.

May now faces the arduous task of winning parliamentary backing for the deal, which foresees London following many EU rules to maintain easy trade access, with the British leader expected to face fierce resistance in the coming weeks from both supporters and opponents of Brexit within her government and other opposition parties.

Follow all of the latest updates from the G20 here

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies