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21st Jan 2022

Italy's 2021 G20 presidency - a transatlantic reset?

  • Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte. According to Italian officials, the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnershiop (TTIP) will be revisited in 2021 under his country's G20 presidency (Photo: Consilium)

Preparing the ground for a new era in transatlantic ties will be the pillar of Italy's G20 presidency in 2021, which is set to culminate with the world leaders' summit in Rome at the end of October.

Sources within Rome's ruling coalition told EUobserver that the G20 presidency stands as a unique opportunity for Italy to finally be in the "driving seat", and boost its role on the global stage by spearheading reinforced ties between Europe and the next US administration of president-elect Joe Biden.

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  • The 2017 meeting of Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin provided one of the most memorable G20s of recent years (Photo: kremlin.ru)

"It's the first time since the G20 format was extended to include world leaders, in 2008, that Italy holds the presidency, right when a new phase in bilateral EU-US relations is about to begin. Joe Biden is eager to boost dialogue and recover the historical relationship with Europe", a Democrat party official said.

All leading nations will race to share the spotlight and secure a close relationship with Biden, and the G20 presidency will give Italy the edge in setting the global agenda.

Donald Trump often ditched conventional diplomatic formats. For example, when Italy hosted the 2017 G8 summit in Taormina he did not take part in the final press conference together with the other leaders.

Rome's goal is now to relaunch transatlantic talks that have reached a stalemate in recent years, and rebuild a more engaging multilateralism.

Italy's role as spokesperson for the European Union will be strengthened during the G20 presidency, according to the sources.

A top priority for Rome is finding common ground on key global issues - particularly climate change, trade, and implementing sustainable economic measures to tackle the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic will have immeasurable ripple effects on workers, jobs and firms, noted the sources, while social inequalities and poverty levels are bound to increase.

"We need a coordinated global strategy and policy response to address this scenario, including common frameworks that may reduce the risk of potential financial shocks", said an official.

The three pillars of Italy's G20 presidency - "people", "planet" and "prosperity", aimed at building a sustainable future-based as well on more digital innovation - are shared by Biden, which raises hopes of a positive EU-US dialogue.

Trade talks and the need to further reduce barriers are expected to top Italy's G20 agenda. Four years of the Trump administration have caused a setback in furthering commercial cooperation, but sources are confident progress will be made.

It is likely Rome will attempt to resume failed EU-US trade negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposal launched in 2013 and left hanging at the end of 2016.

Despite persisting different views on several aspects of the TTIP, which according to Italian officials will need to be revisited and fixed to meet the changed economic scenario, Italy believes that a common ground will eventually be found with president-elect Biden.

"Biden will still keep pursuing US interests, but it won't be with such an aggressive, unilateral approach as his predecessor", noted an official.

Furthering climate change talks and paving way to a global agreement that may satisfy all leading nations by smoothing over differences is another objective of Italy's G20 presidency, particularly since Biden appears to be more willing to revisit the Paris agreement aimed at cutting global emissions.

According to sources there are many similarities between Biden's announced climate plan and Europe's 'green deal' for sustainable development focused on promoting investments in the environmental-friendly economy. Europe might be ahead in terms of meeting 'green goals' compared to the US but there is space for a potential convergence.

Italy hopes that a renewed US-EU dialogue under its G20 presidency may mend the rift in transatlantic ties on other fronts.

The new US administration could adopt a less lenient approach both towards Russia and China by focusing more on the political, thorny issue of human rights rather than just economic and trade angles, said the sources.

Author bio

Silvia Marchetti is a Rome-based freelance reporter. She covers finance, economics, travel and culture for a wide range of international media.

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