Biden enters rickety G-20 buoyed by US election surprise

President Joe Biden is headed for one of the most meaningful Group of 20 summits in years, poised for a landmark meeting with his Chinese counterpart and buoyed by a better-than-expected performance in the US midterm elections.

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(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden is headed for one of the most meaningful Group of 20 summits in years, poised for a landmark meeting with his Chinese counterpart and buoyed by a better-than-expected performance in the U.S. midterm elections.

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In Bali, Biden will look to use the momentum to boost global efforts to stabilize the economy, ramp up pressure on Russia and ease tensions with China, all in a bid to bolster his authority on the world stage.

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But the summit will test whether Biden’s domestic standing translates into global influence, as the president will be forced to question himself about the G-20 — an increasingly recalcitrant assembly of world leaders who often have competing interests. Biden will be measured by how he addresses the challenge of rivals eager to thwart his agenda.

Biden will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in person for the first time as president. Xi also comes emboldened by domestic political developments — in his case, a party convention that entrenched him as China’s leader for at least the next five years while sidelining rivals.

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The group’s members also include Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian officials. They are likely to find that their differences make agreement on substance impossible.

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Saturday that the president is not planning a meeting with the Saudi crown prince, but that meetings with Erdogan or the leaders of Germany, France and Australia are possible.

The list of issues Biden and G-20 leaders want to address is long: global financial instability and a looming recession, global hunger exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising tensions in Asia, efforts to contain the… climate change, the ongoing economic and social unrest of the pandemic.

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Biden has described the world as facing a tipping point between autocracies and democracies; In Bali these factions will face each other.

Biden has a strong personal interest in the G-20 and similar events. The Bali Summit is one of four he will attend during a seven-day trip, along with the annual UN Climate Change Summit in Egypt, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia and an East Asia Summit, also in Cambodia.

During the campaign, the US President repeatedly expressed concern about the erosion of democratic governance and the world order, insisting that democracies must show they can lead and deliver for their people.

“If I have any real expertise, it’s in foreign policy,” he said aside on November 1.

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Domestic political considerations will also occupy Biden. The President used the midterm elections as a reaffirmation of his leadership of the US and was quick to reiterate his plans to run in 2024 – although he said a final decision would be made next year. But Biden needs to make headway on inflation, its biggest domestic drag, which has also troubled other G-20 economies.

US officials have refused to set clear public goals or expectations for the G-20. Biden will work with other leaders to stabilize the global economy, including debt relief, US officials said in a briefing on condition of anonymity. The US will not apologize in its support for Ukraine and will try to avert the consequences of the Russian invasion, such as fuel and food shortages.

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“Everyone’s expectations are pretty low,” said Stephanie Segal, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former US Treasury Department official. “The G-20 has really been hijacked this year by the Russian invasion and the fallout on energy and food prices in particular and the need to respond to those crises.”

On the sidelines of the main summit, Biden will co-host an event to boost global infrastructure as the US battles China for influence abroad.

The summit will also precede the possible implementation of a price cap on Russian oil, a measure the US has negotiated with European allies to try to lessen the impact of new EU sanctions on the country’s supply while also providing a key source of cash for the country Kremlin restrict war machine.

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The cap won’t be the focus of formal talks, but the summit is a crucial place for Biden to allay concerns on the sidelines — or to invite countries that aren’t formally signing up to at least use the measure to get rebates from them own to obtain.

Biden will meet for the first time with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. But Biden will not meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not attending the gathering in Indonesia.

The summit of G-20 leaders is only 14 years old, a concept born out of the global recession. Its birth in response to an economic downturn means the spotlight is particularly intense as financial headwinds mount again around the world. Sri Lanka’s default this year has fueled fears of a wave of similar defaults in emerging markets, particularly in countries not considered low-income.

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“The fundamental question of the G-20 is whether there will be a working G-20 afterward,” said Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center.

Several analysts say it is virtually certain that this year’s summit will not end with a communiqué – a joint statement co-signed by all participants. The drafting of previous declarations required grueling, night-long negotiations. Instead, analysts expect the Indonesian government to produce a summary of the meeting that will summarize the discussion and leave unbridgeable rifts at the table.

“They should coordinate debt relief, they should coordinate how they can get help for countries in need,” Lipsky said. “If they can’t do that, they’re really undermining some of their original reasons for being an institution.”

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