Ukraine war, tensions with China over the great Bali summit

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NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AP) – A showdown between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin is not happening, but the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising tensions between China and the West will be front and center when leaders of the largest World economies converge this week in tropical Bali.

The 20 members of the group begin talks on the Indonesian holiday island on Tuesday under the hopeful theme of “recovering together, recovering stronger”. While Putin stays awayBiden will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and meet new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Giorgia Meloni.

The summit’s official priorities of health, sustainable energy and digital transformation are likely to be overshadowed by fears of a faltering global economy and geopolitical tensions surrounding the war in Ukraine.

The nearly nine-month-old conflict has disrupted trade in oil, natural gas and grain, shifting much of the focus of the summit to food and energy security.

The US and allies in Europe and Asia, meanwhile, are increasingly opposed to a more assertive China, leaving it to emerging G-20 economies such as India, Brazil and host country Indonesia to walk a tightrope between the larger powers.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has tried to bridge rifts within the G-20 over the war in Ukraine. Widodo, also known as Jokowi, became the first Asian leader since the invasion to visit both Russia and Ukraine over the summer.

He invited President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, who is not a member of the G-20, to attend the summit. Zelenskyy is expected to attend, probably online.

“One of Jokowi’s priorities is to ease the tensions of war and geopolitical risks,” said Bhima Yudhistira, director of the Center for Economic and Legal Studies in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

Last year’s G-20 summit in Rome was the first in-person meeting of members since the pandemic, although leaders of Russia and China did not attend.

This year’s event is framed by the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Cambodia, attended by Biden and some other G-20 leaders, and the immediately following Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Thailand.

The American president pledged to work with Southeast Asian nations on Saturdayand said, “We will build a better future that we all want to see” in a region where China is working to expand its influence.

A specific question hanging over the Bali summit is whether Russia will agree to an extension of the UN Black Sea Grains Initiative, due to be renewed on November 19.

The July deal allowed major global grain producer Ukraine to resume exports from ports largely blocked for months because of the war. Russia briefly withdrew from the deal late last month after its Black Sea fleet was attacked, only to rejoin it days later.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday called for more pressure on Russia To extend the deal, Moscow said it must “stop playing hunger games with the world.”

As leaders grapple with conflict and geopolitical tensions, they face the risk that efforts to tame inflation will derail post-pandemic recovery or cause debilitating financial crises.

The effects of war can be felt from the remotest villages of Asia and Africa to the most modern industries. It has amplified disruptions to energy, shipping and food security, driving up prices sharply and hampering efforts to stabilize the global economy following the turmoil of the pandemic.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls on the G-20 to provide financial assistance to developing countries.

“My priority in Bali will be to advocate for countries in the Global South that have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate emergency and are now facing food, energy and financial crises – exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and the crushing of debt,” Guterres said.

The International Monetary Fund is forecasting global growth of 2.7% for 2023, while private sector economists estimate it at just 1.5%, down from around 3% this year, the slowest growth since the oil crisis of the early 1980s.

China has remained somewhat insulated from rising inflation, largely as it struggles to reverse an economic slump that is weighing on global growth.

The Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, grew 3.9% in the most recent quarter. But economists say activity is slowing amid pressure from pandemic controls, a crackdown on tech companies and a downturn in the real estate sector, a key demand driver and source of millions of jobs.

Forecasters have lowered estimates of annual economic growth in China to as much as 3%. That would be less than half of last year’s 8.1% and the second-lowest in decades.

Chinese President Xi will come to the summit emboldened by his appointment to an unusual third term as party leader, making him China’s strongest leader in decades. It is only his second trip abroad since early 2020, after a visit to Central Asia where he met Putin in September.

Biden and Xi will hold their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines Monday since Biden became president in January 2021.

The US is at odds with China over a variety of issues, including human rightstechnology and the future of the self-governing island of Taiwan. The US sees China as its biggest global competitorand this rivalry is only likely to increase as Beijing seeks to expand its influence in the years to come.

The European Union is also reviewing its relations with China as it seeks to reduce its commercial dependence on the country.

Biden said he plans to speak with Xi on issues including Taiwan, trade policy and Beijing’s relationship with Russia.

“What I want to do…is lay out what each of our red lines is,” Biden said last week.

Many developing countries are caught between fighting inflation and trying to recover from the pandemic. Host nation Indonesia’s economy grew 5.7% in the most recent quarter, one of the fastest among the G-20 countries.

But growth from commodity exporters like Indonesia is expected to slow as falling prices for oil, coal and other commodities end the windfall of last year’s price boom.

At a time when many countries are struggling to afford imports of oil, gas and food while still being able to pay down debt, there is mounting pressure on those most vulnerable to climate change to redouble their energy transitions.

In Bali, talks are also expected to focus on finding ways to accelerate the transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.

The G-20 was originally established in 1999 as a forum to address economic challenges. It includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union . Spain holds a permanent guest seat.

Some observers on the bloc, like Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center, question whether the G-20 can even function as geopolitical divides widen.

“I’m skeptical that it can survive in its current form over the long term,” he said in a briefing last week.

That makes it particularly difficult for hosts Indonesia.

“This is not the G-20 they signed up for,” Lipsky said. “The last thing they wanted was to be in the middle of this geopolitical struggle, this war in Europe, and to be at the crossroads of it. But there they are.”

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Associated Press writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

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