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Oct. 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m. EDT

G20 leaders to tackle pandemic recovery, global taxes, energy prices, supply chains

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Associated Press

Leaders of the Group of 20 countries gathering for their first in-person summit since the pandemic took hold will confront a global recovery hampered by a series of stumbling blocks: an energy crunch spurring higher fuel and utility prices, new COVID-19 outbreaks and logjams in the supply chains that keep the economy humming and goods headed to consumers.

The summit will allow leaders representing 80% of the global economy to talk — and apply peer pressure — on all those issues. Analysts question how much progress they can make to ease the burden right away on people facing rising prices on everything from food and furniture to higher heating bills heading into winter.

Health and financial officials are sitting down in Rome on Friday before presidents and prime ministers gather for the G-20 Saturday and Sunday, but the leaders of major economic players China and Russia won’t be there in person. That may not bode well for cooperation, especially on energy issues as climate change takes center stage just before the U.N. Climate Change Conference begins Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland.

Here’s a look at some of the economic issues facing G-20 leaders:

THE PANDEMIC RECOVERY The International Monetary Fund says the top priority for the economic recovery is simple: speed up the vaccination of the world population. Yet big headlines on vaccine cooperation may not be forthcoming at the Rome summit.

The G-20 countries have supported vaccine-sharing through the U.N.-backed COVAX program, which has failed to alleviate dire shortages in poor countries. Donated doses are coming in at a fraction of what is needed, and developed countries are focused on booster shots for their own populations.

Negotiations before the summit have not focused on a large number of vaccines that could be made available, though countries talked about strengthening health systems.

Meanwhile, rising consumer prices and government stimulus programs to help economies bounce back from the pandemic may be discussed, but central banks tend to deal with higher prices and stimulus spending is decided at the national level.

GLOBAL TAXES One major economic deal is already done: The G-20 will likely be a celebration of an agreement on a global minimum corporate tax, aimed at preventing multinational companies from stashing profits in countries where they pay little or no taxes.

All G-20 governments signed on to the deal negotiated among more than 130 countries, and it now faces an ambitious timeline to get approved and enacted through 2023.

U.S. President Joe Biden has tied his domestic agenda to it — creating a global minimum tax can allow the United States to charge higher taxes without the risk of companies shifting their profits to tax havens. U.S. adoption is key because so many multinational companies are headquartered there.

The agreement also helps remove trade tensions between the U.S. and Europe. It allows nations including France, Italy and Spain to back off digital services taxes that targeted U.S. tech companies Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Biden goes to the G-20 with his tax and economic agenda still subject to congressional negotiations. That means he will be unable to show that the U.S. is leading on global corporate taxes, though his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said G-20 leaders understand the nature of congressional talks.

“They’ll say, ‘Is President Biden on track to deliver on what he said he’s going to deliver?’ And we believe one way or the other, he will be on track to do that,” Sullivan said.

HIGH ENERGY PRICES The summit offers an opportunity for dialogue on high oil and gas prices because it includes delegations from major energy producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, major consumers in Europe and China, and the U.S., which is both.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to participate remotely.

“Perhaps the most important thing the G20 could do is to tell those among them that are major energy suppliers that they should think about their future,” said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank.

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