G20 bat­tle lines drawn

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Lead­ers of the world’s top economies will gather to­mor­row in Ger­many for likely the stormi­est G20 sum­mit in years, with dis­agree­ments rang­ing from wars to cli­mate change and global trade. Here are some of the most volatile is­sues and dis­putes, and the key per­son­al­i­ties in­volved, in the July 7-8 meet­ing in the north­ern port city of Ham­burg.

North Korea

North Korea’s first suc­cess­ful test of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile on Tues­day is likely to over­shadow all other trade and diplo­matic rows. The reclu­sive state’s re­lent­less pur­suit of its nu­clear am­bi­tions comes as a slap in the face for US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who vowed Py­ongyang’s goal of pos­sess­ing an ICBM “won’t hap­pen”. The tough-talk­ing prop­erty ty­coon has so far failed to per­suade China to bring its rogue neigh­bor to heel.

Ger­many has made cli­mate pro­tec­tion a pri­or­ity of its G20 pres­i­dency. It had hoped to get the world’s big­gest in­dus­tri­al­ized and emerg­ing economies to com­mit to tak­ing the lead in im­ple­ment­ing the land­mark 2015 Paris cli­mate deal on keep­ing the global rise in tem­per­a­tures “well be­low” two de­grees Cel­sius (3.6 de­grees Fahren­heit) from pre-in­dus­trial times. But Trump dashed those hopes af­ter vow­ing in early June that he would pull the world’s sec­ond big­gest car­bon emit­ter out of the Paris ac­cord. Host Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel ad­mit­ted that af­ter Trump’s an­nounce­ment, she “knew that we could not ex­pect dis­cus­sions to be easy”. But she and Euro­pean al­lies have vowed to de­fend the cli­mate pact at the sum­mit, set­ting them on a col­li­sion course with Trump.

Looming trade war

Sign­ing up to an anti-pro­tec­tion­ist pledge used to be rou­tine at G20 meet­ings, but not this time. Trump, swept to power by pop­u­lar anger over dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion in vast parts of the United States, has pledged to “fol­low two sim­ple rules: buy Amer­i­can and hire Amer­i­can.” That has put him at odds with many US trad­ing part­ners, in­clud­ing ex­port gi­ants Ger­many and China, whom he has crit­i­cized over their mas­sive trade sur­pluses. Trump’s threats may soon ma­te­ri­al­ize, as Wash­ing­ton is re­port­edly prepar­ing to im­pose puni­tive tar­iffs on steel im­ports-some­thing that G20 ex­porters would be keen to ward off.

The United States in April launched a probe into whether steel im­ports posed a dan­ger to na­tional se­cu­rity, with the re­sult due within days.Trump is re­port­edly wait­ing to hear from trad­ing part­ners be­fore an­nounc­ing his de­ci­sion on whether to limit im­ports of the metal. Ac­cord­ing to news web­site Ax­ios, the US leader is lean­ing to­wards im­pos­ing tar­iffs as high as 20 per­cent on the metal-a move that would likely un­leash re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures.

An­tag­o­nis­tic pairs

With ac­cu­sa­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the US elections and con­tacts be­tween Trump’s se­nior aides and Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s men, the vexed re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two will be closely scru­ti­nized when they meet face to face for the first time. The two lead­ers face an ar­ray of con­tentious for­eign pol­icy is­sues, from Syria to Ukraine and North Korea. Trump has struck a tough tone on Rus­sia’s ally Syria, while Wash­ing­ton’s de­ci­sion to toughen sanc­tions over the con­flict in Ukraine has an­gered Moscow. An­other meet­ing to watch will be Trump’s talks with China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the US bil­lion­aire leader in a tweet ac­cused Bei­jing of not do­ing enough to rein in North Korea.

Mean­while, Trump in­fu­ri­ated Bei­jing last week when he ap­proved a $1.3 bil­lion arms sale to Tai­wan, while China lashed out af­ter a US war­ship sailed close to an is­land claimed by China, Tai­wan and Viet­nam. Merkel also faces a testy meet­ing with Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, par­tic­u­larly af­ter Ber­lin re­fused him per­mis­sion to ad­dress eth­nic Turks on the side­lines of sum­mit. Ber­lin and Ankara’s re­la­tions have been fraught, de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sharply over Turkey’s mass crack­down af­ter a failed coup last year and a host of other rights con­tro­ver­sies.

Street protests

Out­side the con­fer­ence rooms, anti-glob­al­iza­tion ac­tivists, in­clud­ing an an­tic­i­pated 8,000 po­ten­tially vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists, are squar­ing up for a show­down with po­lice. Ger­many has de­ployed 20,000 of­fi­cers from across the coun­try. Au­thor­i­ties have also banned ral­lies in a vast area of the city dur­ing the sum­mit and stopped pro­test­ers from set­ting up camp. But the mea­sures have only an­gered far-left ac­tivists, who com­plain that the city is be­ing turned into a “fortress” and say they still plan to dis­rupt the sum­mit. — AFP

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