Trudeau looks to perform delicate G20 balancing act between Trump, Merkel
Justin Trudeau is embarking today on a week-long European sojourn that will culminate in a meeting of 20 of the world’s largest economies — one where he’ll test-drive a brand new foreign affairs policy aimed at charting Canada’s own course in the world.
Friday’s G20 meetings are shaping up as a showdown between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump.
In a speech last week to the German parliament that laid out her priorities for the meeting, Merkel — host of the twoday gathering in Hamburg — delivered a pointed critique of Trump’s now-infamous “America First” doctrine without ever once mentioning his name.
“Whoever believes that the world’s problems can be solved by isolationism and protectionism is mistaken,” Merkel said.
Her G20 agenda — stronger global co-operation to fight climate change and terrorism, and more robust international trade — cuts directly to the heart of her well-documented differences with Trump, a strategy some see as an effort to further isolate the U.S. president on the world stage.
Trump, for his part, has escalated the war of words with Merkel, using familiar rhetoric about a “massive trade deficit” the U.S. has with Germany and threats to slap import taxes on German-made cars.
Trump stood alone at the G7 meeting in Italy last month when the other six leaders, including Merkel and Trudeau, pushed him to stick with the Paris climate change accord, an international treaty aimed at keeping global warming to less than two degrees C above preindustrial levels.
Trump demurred, refused to sign the Paris part of the G7 communique, and later made it official: the U.S. was out.
Since then, Merkel has been working hard to shore up support for the accord among other G20 nations. She met recently with leaders from China and India, travelled to Mexico and Argentina last month and sat down with European leaders just last week to develop a united front.
Into this mix steps Trudeau — more philosophically aligned with Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, France’s young and stylish new president, but lashed irrevocably to the U.S. through economic and geographic ties.
Trudeau’s approach to Trump has put him in a unique position at this gathering, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and senior adviser at the law firm Dentons.
“The rest of the world has been impressed with how Justin Trudeau has managed Trump,” Robertson said.
Trudeau pushed Trump on Paris at the G7, but was less critical and showed more patience than his European counterparts. He has since expressed his disappointment and sided with the other signatories, all the while insisting he’s not going to tell the president how to run his country.
At the same time, however, Canada has served notice that in an era of American protectionism, it will forge its own path. That declaration came in last month’s keynote foreign policy speech by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Demonstrators against the G20 Summit stand on stage wearing masks depicting, from left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in Hamburg, Germany, Sunday.