Sunak to call for G20 action to end Russian ‘stranglehold’ on energy

PM’s five-point plan for ‘coordinated global action’ to reverse economic slump

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 14 November 2022 00:02 GMT
Prime minister Rishi Sunak is heading to Bali
Prime minister Rishi Sunak is heading to Bali (PA Wire)

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Rishi Sunak will call for global action to end Russia’s stranglehold on global energy prices as he addresses fellow world leaders at the G20 summit in Indonesia this week.

Reducing reliance on Russian gas and oil – including by stepping up investment in renewables – forms part of a five-point plan being put forward by the prime minister for coordinated global action to deal with the worldwide economic slump.

Mr Sunak has vowed to confront Moscow’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov over the war in Ukraine when he becomes the first UK prime minister to speak with a representative of the Russian government since the invasion in February.

He is also expected to hold one-on-one talks with US president Joe Biden, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, India’s Narendra Modi and Australian PM Anthony Albanese on the margins of the meeting.

More controversially, he will have a bilateral meeting with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman – widely suspected of involvement in the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – with energy supplies expected to be high on the agenda.

With president Vladimir Putin skipping the summit, being held in the beach resort of Bali, Mr Lavrov is set to face a wall of condemnation from Western members of the G20, and all eyes will be on whether Mr Modi or China’s Xi Jinping add their own rebukes.

Downing Street said the PM would use the summit as an opportunity to “call out Putin’s barbarism and force Russia to confront the global suffering caused by this senseless campaign of violence”.

He will tell Lavrov that Russia will have “no place at the top table” while the invasion continues, said aides.

The annual summit comes with Putin’s invasion in disarray after the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, the only provincial capital they managed to seize in their assault on Ukraine.

But agreement will be all but impossible to achieve due to Russia’s effective veto on decision-making by the G20 forum, made up of the world’s 19 most powerful national economies and the European Union.

With Russia certain to block agreement on energy or food – both being used by Moscow as effective weapons in the Ukraine conflict – it is understood that the two-day gathering will end without the usual communique setting out joint plans for action.

Mr Sunak’s plan is designed to bolster the domestic measures to be unveiled by Jeremy Hunt in Thursday’s autumn statement, which the chancellor confirmed on Sunday will include cuts to public service spending and tax rises for all.

In his five-point plan, the PM will ask fellow leaders to:

• Direct government support to the most vulnerable in their own countries and around the world.

• End Russia’s weaponisation of food supplies by ensuring that an agreement to allow the flow of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea is renewed after its expiry date of 19 November.

• Strengthen energy security, including by unlocking the investment needed to accelerate the transition to green sources of power.

• Open up global trade through bilateral free-trade agreements and reform of the World Trade Organisation.

• Provide “honest, reliable finance” to help developing countries grow sustainably.

Speaking ahead of his departure for Bali, Mr Sunak said: “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.

“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 that Putin has exploited for years.”

Aides said Mr Sunak would use the summit to establish his presence on the world stage, just weeks after he came to power as the UK’s third prime minister of 2022.

He will push for a “stable international platform” for a return to economic growth and will use talks with Mr Modi to try to revive plans for a UK-India trade deal, after a Diwali deadline for agreement was missed.

And in talks with Indonesian president and summit host Joko Widodo, he will aim to bolster the UK’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

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