In terms of positive outcomes, the G20 is a pointless talkfest. It was important when the world faced the real threat of a depression as the global financial crisis unfolded and co-ordinated action was required, but since then it has gone the way of other major talkfests like the G7 and the APEC summit. The substantive action is on the sidelines, in bilateral meetings. Politicians and the media who accompany them, however, have to portray the get-together as a major achievement, so we were treated to a dutiful series of stories this morning about various wins for Malcolm Turnbull.
Like other summits, however, what the G20 is good for is to illustrate negative outcomes — what didn’t get agreed, what didn’t get mentioned, what words were omitted from the all-important communique (laboriously workshopped over weeks beforehand by bureaucrats). Much of the focus of the weekend G20 was of course on Donald Trump and the growing isolation of the United States under his, erm, stewardship.