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The G20 and Our America

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Between November 30 and December 1, 2018, the 13th meeting of the G20 took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The G20 is the forum of the largest industrialized and emerging countries of the world, made up of Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, the United States, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, South Africa and Turkey, plus one representation for the European Union, another for Spain, and only three countries from Latin America: Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. There was also representation from the UN, WTO, WB and IMF.


Inaugurating the meeting, Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina, said: “we take the summit as a gesture of support, especially after so many years of isolation,” but the truth is that the annual turn came to his country, just as it came to Germany last year and will come to Japan in 2019.


With a critical economic situation, an external debt that reintroduced dependence on the IMF and with social and labour conditions aggravated by neoliberal policies, it is not possible to take the Macri government as an example that merits world recognition.


For Mexico the situation was special: Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) concluded his presidency by signing a new free trade agreement with the United States and Canada (T-MEC or USMCA) on the day on which the conclave of the G20 was inaugurated and to the satisfaction of Donald Trump, who obtained an agreement made to order for his interests, in the face of the previous NAFTA (1994) that the American president had questioned from the beginning of his office.


Over the past thirty years, the economic conditions subjected to neoliberalism of the successive Mexican presidents and under NAFTA, only contributed to reinforcing the power of a business elite and that of the mafias. This is because the problem of poverty, unemployment and underemployment has worsened over this period, along with corruption at every level and the spread of violence that has been unstoppable up to now, precisely because of the institutional weakening of the country. Nor can a neoliberal Mexico be a global example.


Similarly, Brazil, under the neoliberalism of the end of the XX century, became an economic power on the basis of exacerbating the worst conditions of life and work among its population. Only the governments of Luis Inácio Lula de Silva (2003-2011) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) succeeded in overcoming this inheritance, with social advances, a new institutional power and previously unheard-of attention to the popular sectors. These conquests, unpardonable in the eyes of traditional economic and political powers of the country, led to the soft coup d’état that put Michel Temer in the presidency (2016-2018), with whom these powers recovered control of the State, implemented lawfare, persecuted the PT and achieved the imprisonment of Lula, through a questionable judicial process. So nor has the neoliberal Brazil been able to become a world example.


It thus it occurred that at the G20, the crucial problems of the three Latin American members and the “biggest” powers of the region, were not present. Instead, the issues of interest to the world powers predominated, particularly those involving the United States, China and Russia.


The trade war between the US and China has been temporarily suspended.  Trump offered to postpone the announced rise in tariffs on Chinese products for 90 days, while Xi Jinping promised to increase the purchase of US goods. Despite this, what remains in place is the neo-Monroe policy (“America for the Americans”) of the Trump government to counter the Chinese and Russian presence in Latin America.


Trump cancelled the meeting with Vladimir Putin, arguably because of the detention of three Ukrainian ships by Russia. In fact, the truth is that he managed to distance himself from the Russian president while in the US the issue of the presumed intervention of this country in the campaign that favoured the election of Trump was being refloated.


Beyond these events, for the White House it is very clear that the meeting in Buenos Aires has been a “success” and that the final document may be considered “a great day for the United States” because it reflects many of the objectives of Donald Trump.


This document, titled “Building consensus for a fair and sustainable development” (https://bit.ly/2U3ey3j), contains 31 points of agreement, among which are the fight against corruption, world financial security, attention to work, refugees and humanitarian causes.


But free trade, as the contemporary economic paradigm, constitutes the axis of the concerns. Nevertheless, there are changes. Trump has managed to prevent discussion on the protectionism of his country, which promises for the first time to affect the so far unbeatable principle of “free trade.” In addition, there was advocacy for a rethinking of the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Latin America could take better advantage of this reform, at the same time as empowering their own protectionism to defend themselves from external competition, which affects industrial development above all; but it is difficult and nearly impossible to obtain with governments of a right-wing majority and neoliberal business elites that still believe in indiscriminate commercial openness and free trade agreements (FTAs).  It is even more difficult in the face of transnational pressures that admit protection for their own interests, but not for those of Latin Americans, from whom they demand open borders. It is a relationship similar to that of old colonial times, when the empires imposed metropolitan interests on subordinate nations.


Another point agreed on refers to the exploitation and development of every kind of “clean” energy; but this will not stop the affectation of the countries of the “third world” and, without doubt, of Latin America, a region in possession of different energy resources which historically the big capitalist corporations have appropriated. As Emmanuel Macron, the president of France desired, the document insists on the protection of the environment; but includes a paragraph that recognizes the contrary position of the United States on this issue, which country even withdrew from the Paris agreement on climate change in June 2017.


Jair Bolsonaro, who will become president of Brazil on January 1, 2019, will surely have fit in very well in the G20, since his ideas and standpoints, both political and economic, have questioned multilateralism, are allied with the United States and are oriented to making his country the subimperialist power of Latin America.


On the other hand, a speech such as that made by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on becoming President of Mexico on December 1, must have come like a bucket of cold water, since his fundamental questioning was of neoliberalism, which has done so much harm to his country. The new president added that his mission will be to put an end to corruption and that he will separate economic power from political power. He said that he would listen to the people rather than to the elites enriched by past governments. He has also announced that he could abolish presidential immunity and that it would be better to leave behind what had happened with previous governments, in order not to sink into revengeful and revanchist attitudes. But these are both dangerous things in the face of the traditional political class’s voracity, that might well find any pretext to indict the president; moreover impunity would triumph for those who have been responsible for the social disaster of Mexico under neoliberalism.


Would a president like the Ecuadorian Lenin Moreno have been uncomfortable among the “great ones” of the G20? His economic policy, of a local and provincial nature over 18 months of administration, comes down to removing powers of the State, forgiving fines and interest owed, suppressing taxes for the business elites under the pretext of tax incentives, orienting the government toward the interests of the chambers of production and continuing to believe in the international free market, as well as the “beneficence” of imperialist capital, privatisations and labour flexibility, thus contradicting all the economic history of Latin American neoliberalism, that López Obrador, on the other hand, has questioned.  “De-Correa-ization” and de-institutionalization have prospered, as has political persecution, lawfare and the violation of the principles of the Republic of Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution.


In light of the above, it is possible to conclude that the G20 has remained a forum for transnational interests and capitalism of the centre, without touching on sensitive issues for Latin America, that have to do, among so many other things, with the strengthening of States and accordingly institutionalization, the redistribution of wealth, overcoming poverty, unemployment and underemployment, security, migration, the increase of taxes on the rich, the fostering of national production, autonomous regional integration, counteracting the global power of corporations and the looting of resources, or the end of the blockade of Cuba, in the perspective of the regional struggle for a just society, for the sovereignty and the dignity of every country.

(Translated for ALAI by Jordan and Joan Remple Bishop)


Published by PL: 3/diciembre/2018

Original article published in Firmas Selectas of Prensa Latina





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