Rishi Sunak will call on G20 leaders to 'fix weaknesses' in global economy

British prime minister to attend G20 at a time of deep divisions in global community

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak aboard a plane on Sunday, on his way to the G20 meeting in Bali. WPA
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will call on leaders at the G20 to “fix the weaknesses” in the global economic system, and work together to bring down prices driven up by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As one of Mr Sunak's first outings on the global stage since taking office last month, he will arrive in Bali, Indonesia, on Monday for the gathering of leaders of the world’s biggest economies.

Beginning on Tuesday, the two-day summit comes as the world confronts some of the most significant economic challenges since G20 leaders first met to respond to the 2008 financial crisis.

The economic woes have been exacerbated by the Ukraine war, which has fuelled a sharp rise in energy and food prices and soaring global inflation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has faced unanimous condemnation from western leaders over the conflict, is expected to miss the event and send his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, in his place.

Mr Sunak said he would “call out Putin’s regime” during the first encounter between a British prime minister and Russian government officials since Moscow’s full-scale invasion began in February.

He plans to confront Mr Lavrov with allies at the summit’s first plenary session.

Rishi Sunak through the years - in pictures

“We will absolutely use every opportunity to confront Russia about their continued illegal actions," the prime minister's official spokesman said before the trip.

“We … will speak with our allies in one voice on this.”

Divisions among the Group of 20 major economies are so deep that the traditional “family photo” has been called off and diplomats are doubtful leaders will be able to issue a communique at the end of the summit.

They cannot agree on a statement that condemns Moscow because Russia would never agree to criticise itself.

Bali will be the first major diplomatic test for Mr Sunak, whose experience in government has so far been almost entirely UK-focused.

He will meet US President Joe Biden for the first time and the two will hold bilateral talks, although the American leader's priority will probably be his meeting with China’s Xi Jinping.

Mr Sunak will also meet India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan’s premier Fumio Kishida, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

He met some European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, at the UN climate talks in Egypt a week earlier, when he indicated warmer relations than those under his predecessors at Downing Street.

Preparations for G20 in Bali - in pictures

Mr Sunak will want to restore Britain’s reputation for reliability despite recent political turmoil, and show he is returning stability to the economy at home after Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget.

He will also want to use the summit to influence an international agenda that supplements and reinforces what his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, will unveil in the Autumn Statement, British officials say

Mr Sunak will return to the UK on Thursday in time for his budget, in which Mr Hunt could impose up to £60 billion ($71bn) in tax increases and spending cuts.

“Later this week the Autumn Statement will set out how we will get this country on the right path, put public finances on a stable footing and get debt falling," Mr Sunak said.

“Creating a stable international system that protects the most vulnerable will be a core part of that work.

“But addressing the biggest economic crisis in a decade will require a concerted effort by the world’s largest economies. These are not problems we can solve alone.

“At the G20, leaders need to step up to fix the weaknesses in the international economic system which Putin has exploited for years.”

Mr Sunak set out a plan to bolster the global economic system, including urging governments to direct support to poor citizens and countries.

He called for an end to Russia’s “weaponisation” of food production and distribution, and for the renewal of a deal, due to expire on Saturday, allowing grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to ease the global food crisis.

The UK will work with partners to boost investment in the green transition as part of efforts to stop “Russia’s stranglehold over international energy prices”, according to Mr Sunak’s plan.

He also proposed World Trade Organisation reforms to open up global trade and deal with the “manipulation of global markets by malign actors”.

The international financial system must have the firepower needed to help developing nations grow without becoming dependent on “exploitative” lenders, the plan said.

Updated: November 13, 2022, 11:26 PM