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The G20 Family Reunion

Relationships among leaders have historically been what drives progress at the G20, despite struggles to agree on specific commitments or language. But, between virtual meetings and US-China tensions, those relationships have become strained, and repairing them must be a top priority at the group's upcoming Rome summit.

MILAN – This week, G20 leaders gather in Rome for their annual summit. But will they use their stay in la grande bellezza to reconcile their differences and lay the groundwork for improved policy cooperation? Will their private dinner reinforce progress, by enabling those who are new to the process – some participants will be meeting US President Joe Biden for the first time – to build relationships with G20 veterans?

Since the G20 became a leaders’ summit in 2008, the private dinner has become an invaluable platform for some of the world’s most powerful people to discuss, face to face, the most important issues that they and their countries are facing. A decade ago, in Cannes, the eurozone debt crisis dominated the dinner discussion. A few guests allegedly cornered Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to persuade him to resign.

This year, there is no shortage of topics that will get the diners talking. The event’s host, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, is keen to discuss the humanitarian and geopolitical situation in Afghanistan; in fact, he recently chaired an extraordinary meeting of G20 leaders on the topic. The imperative of delivering vaccine doses to low-income countries is also likely to come up – about 23 billion doses are needed, and this requires coordinated effort and open trade for vaccine supply chains. And perhaps guests will consider some form of energy coordination, aimed at easing supply bottlenecks and reducing price pressures.

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