global leaders g20 Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

What Future for Global Leadership?

With global leadership now in question, the G20’s upcoming summit in Hamburg on July 7-8 could be the group’s tensest meeting ever. China and Germany increasingly regard themselves as the new defenders of the international order, but neither can fill America's shoes.

PRINCETON – With global leadership now in question, the G20’s upcoming summit in Hamburg on July 7-8 could be the group’s tensest meeting ever. The summit process long pre-dates the G20’s founding in 1999. It was originally designed, in the 1970s, to align major economies’ domestic policies, thereby reducing uncertainty. But domestic politics have now created a new type of uncertainty.

Whereas the international community isolated Russia at the G20 Brisbane summit in 2014, the United States has isolated itself in 2017. After making a blustering appearance at the G7 Taormina summit this past May, US President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. In response, European G7 leaders, with the notable exception of British Prime Minister Theresa May, have signed a declaration condemning Trump’s position.

After serving as the main architects of the United Nations system and the post-1945 international order, the US and the United Kingdom now seem intent on reversing that legacy. Since Trump’s election and the Brexit referendum last year, both countries have embarked on an inconsistent and highly contested political path away from openness and multilateralism.

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