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The leaders from the world’s 20 biggest economies converge on Buenos Aires on Friday looking for consensus on the global flows of trade and investment – at a time when such consensus has been increasingly difficult to come by. Ten years on from the first G20 summit – convened in an effort to alleviate the global financial crisis – the Argentinian hosts are struggling to find common ground among the heads of state and government representing 19 of the biggest national economies and the EU – 85% of global economic output.

A forum intended to be a powerhouse of global governance has become a stage for an increasing number of authoritarian and populist leaders who are there to perform for their restive followers back home. Their power depends on dramatically defying the rule-based order the G20 was created to promote.

They are converging on Buenos Aires like trillion-dollar stake poker players – an oddball bunch, each focused on winning, or being seen to win, at the expense of the others.

Over the two days of the summit, there will be group sessions on financial architecture, sustainable agriculture and the future of work, but this year the big news is likely to be dominated by a set of bilateral duels with unpredictable outcomes.

While the general idea is to talk about money, a lot of the conversations in Buenos Aires will be about blood. First to arrive on Wednesday was Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman – less than two months after his henchmen killed and the dismembered journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

As the prince set up camp in the Saudi embassy behind a fearsome security cordon in the leafy neighbourhood of Palermo Chico, an Argentinian prosecutor is looking into possible charges of crimes against humanity. Read more

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