Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

English

Why Summits Matter

It is easy to be skeptical about the kind of meetings that a small army of global and regional leaders swept through this month. But November's three summits – the APEC summit in Beijing, the East Asian Summit in Naypyidaw, and the G-20 meeting in Brisbane – should have the skeptics eating their words.

CANBERRA – It is easy to be skeptical about the kind of meetings that US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and a small army of other global and regional leaders swept through in China, Myanmar, and Australia this month. Multilateral summitry lends itself to familiar gibes about wildly expensive photo opportunities, set-piece speeches endorsing pre-cooked lowest-common-denominator communiqués, and more time devoted to parading around in silly shirts than to policy substance.

But November’s three summits – the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, the East Asian Summit in Naypyidaw, and the G-20 meeting in Brisbane – should have the skeptics eating their words. Each contributed substantially to the quality of global governance, as summit diplomacy ideally should, in three distinct ways: formal outcomes, useful byproducts, and positive atmospherics.

In Beijing, the major formal outcome – important after years of over-promising and under-delivering by APEC – was the new momentum generated for the Free Trade Agreement for Asia-Pacific as a complementary mechanism to the US-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But the biggest news was the summit’s byproducts, especially the announcement by the United States and China of a joint agreement on targets for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions – a breakthrough that will transform the dynamics of the global climate debate.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/HuuIfut;
  1. solana114_FADEL SENNAAFP via Getty Images_libyaprotestflag Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images

    Relieving Libya’s Agony

    Javier Solana

    The credibility of all external actors in the Libyan conflict is now at stake. The main domestic players will lower their maximalist pretensions only when their foreign supporters do the same, ending hypocrisy once and for all and making a sincere effort to find room for consensus.

    4

Edit Newsletter Preferences