G20 summits are always important. These are the leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world meeting. They represent the majority of the global population and the global economy. And they discuss things-- important things they might disagree on-- how to deal with everything from climate change to North Korea or Syria. But it's particularly important this time. Because after the election of Donald Trump as US president, the world is starkly divided into two camps-- the globalists, who defend the existing post-war multilateral economic order, and the nationalist populists, who try to tear it down.
Well, the populist side at least has more swagger. It has all the strong men on its side. Think of Turkey's Erdogan, Russia's Putin, and of course the USA's president Donald Trump. These all strut around the world stage projecting national power. But their swagger betrays economic insecurities at home. Russia's economy is struggling. The Turkish economy relies on a credit bubble that's driven by incoming capital flows. And even the US economy is both riven with divisions and also at risk of setting itself outside of the global economy.
The globalists have a much quieter style. But they actually have more strong achievements to show for. In particular, just the day before the G20 summit started, the EU and Japan signed a free trade agreement. This is going to cover the biggest free trade area of rich economies in the world. It will boost trade between Europe and Japan. But at the same time, is going to leave other economies such as the US behind. And this is the important lesson of this conflict between the globalists and the populists. Economic globalisation is not going to stop just because the populists want to get off.