Trade, climate counter forces await Trump
Views out of sync in G-20; Japan, EU nearing accord
As President Donald Trump departed for Europe on Wednesday, he and key global leaders remained at odds ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Germany, with Trump’s “America First” mantra on trade and climate change running into emboldened opposition overseas.
Trump reiterated his threats on Wednesday to pull the United States back from existing trade deals, arguing they were against the national interest. As Trump attempts to leverage the United States’ economic power to negotiate new deals in the country’s favor, other world powers are exploring new economic ties.
The divergent trade approaches
have set up the G-20 as a potential crossroads for the international economic order.
The European Union and Japan are expected today to announce plans for a new free-trade agreement. The deal would lower barriers to exports of cars flowing in both directions, as well as reduce Japanese barriers to imports of trains and agricultural products, including cheese and chocolate, according to media reports.
After weeks of tough negotiations in Tokyo that cap four years of talks, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is in Brussels
for meetings with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
Trump’s rejection of multilateral trade deals, including with Europe and with a group of Asia-Pacific nations, has prompted the EU and Japan to speed up their talks. But the two sides have not yet reached a consensus on tariffs.
One issue Trump faces is the decision of whether to impose new restrictions on steel imports to protect U.S. producers — a move opposed by Germany and other U.S. allies. The Commerce Department was close to recommending new restrictions, but other top Trump advisers warned it could lead to major economic fallout.
Trump’s advisers plan to push other countries at the G-20 to agree to concrete steps that would crack down on the way China exports steel, people briefed on the planning said.
U.S. officials have accused China of “dumping” excess steel on global markets in a way that drives down prices. Because China is a G-20 country, Trump could try to directly challenge Chinese leader Xi Jinping in person when they meet during the summit.
China now makes more than half of the world’s steel. The U.S. imports very little of it, but Trump administration officials say the way China produces and exports steel hurts the U.S. steel industry because it drives down prices.
In advance of the meeting, Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the steel issue. Germany is a large exporter of steel, and officials there worry they could be caught in any U.S. crackdown.
There are also signs that other leaders will be willing to challenge Trump more directly on a variety of issues. Merkel said she would press Trump about his trade threats as well as his recent decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement that aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Merkel has emerged as one of the global leaders most willing to challenge Trump’s approach.
“Those who think that the problems of this world can be solved with isolationism or protectionism are terribly wrong,” she told the German parliament last week.
Trump and some of his advisers have chided Merkel over the fact that Germany exports far more goods more to the U.S. than the U.S. exports to Germany — $64 billion worth of cars, machinery and other goods in 2016.
Many trade experts believe the unbalanced trade is in large part because of Germany’s use of a shared currency with the rest of the eurozone, which ends up making the currency cheaper than a strong economy like Germany would otherwise have. German officials have tried to explain this dynamic to Trump and his advisers for months, but Trump administration officials believe Germany could do more to boost their imports.
The Germans argue that their companies, including luxury automakers, invest heavily in the United States, employing more than 100,000 Americans.
Before his inauguration, Trump had threatened BMW with a 35 percent tariff over its plan to build a new plant in Mexico. And on his previous trip to Europe, at a meeting of the Group of Seven in Italy, Trump told European leaders that the Germans were “very bad” on trade.
Merkel is expected to also serve as Trump’s lead antagonist on climate issues, after his June announcement that he was beginning the process of withdrawing from the Paris agreement. The announcement divided White House officials, some of whom opposed the move, and it was condemned by numerous world leaders, including those in China, Canada and the United Kingdom.
But since then, top White House officials have defended Trump’s decision, saying it represents his focus on helping protect U.S. jobs and not succumbing to greenhouse gas targets that could lead to regulations.
“He cares very much about the climate,” said Gary Cohn, director of the White House’s National Economic Council. “He cares about the environment. But he has to enter into a deal that’s fair for the American people, the American workers. He’s done everything he’s done based on job creation, economic growth in the United States.”
G-20 meetings, which are held once a year in a rotation of countries, typically end with a joint statement from every nation about issues that can include economic policy, international assistance and security. Officials are likely
to face strains as they try to cobble together the joint statement for this meeting, because Trump could easily block any language that he feels tries to box him in on his trade or climate initiatives.
But Trump could also risk alienating the White House from foreign leaders who have often looked to the U.S. for leadership on all of these issues, particularly as he is seeking more influence in global security and counterterrorism efforts.
Donald Trump’s encounter with Russian leader Vladimir Putin is raising concern among veteran American diplomats and analysts about a mismatch between a U.S. president new to global affairs and a wily former Soviet spymaster experienced in the long game of strategy and statecraft.
A range of global issues hang in the balance, including continuing sanctions against Russia, checking Putin’s expansionist policies in the Ukraine, halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, managing frictions over Syria and Iran, and preventing Russian interference in U.S. and European elections.
Any meeting between the two will highlight their very different approaches to diplomacy. Putin has shown himself to be a tactician who carefully prepares and is not easily distracted from his goals. Trump is known to shun preparation and instead go with his gut, placing great faith in what he believes to be an ability to read the person sitting across from him. In the case of Putin, this could be difficult to do.
Putin is “professionally prepared to try to manipulate people,” said William Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia under Republican President George W. Bush and now president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He will come well-equipped, and it’s important that we do that, too.”
The White House confirmed Tuesday the meeting is set for Friday afternoon and will be a “normal bilateral meeting,” without commenting further. The two leaders are expected to cover a variety of issues in the meeting, which is expected to last about 30 minutes.
Trump hasn’t ruled out raising concerns about cybersecurity and Russian election meddling, according to a
U.S. official familiar with the preparations.
Putin also plans to take part in a three-way meeting on Ukraine with the German and French leaders, according to the German government.
Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Wednesday that it wasn’t yet clear when her meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and Putin will take place. The three are among the leaders attending the G-20 summit, which Merkel will host on Friday and Saturday.
Merkel and former French President Francois Hollande
led diplomatic efforts over recent years to keep a lid on the conflict in eastern Ukraine and attempt to resolve it. Information for this article was contributed by Damian Paletta and Ana Swanson of The Washington
Post; by Isabel Reynolds, Margaret Talev, Henry Meyer, Ilya Arkhipov, Gregory L. White, Toluse Olorunnipa, John Fraher and Justin Sink of Bloomberg News; and by staff members of The Associated Press.
President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, are greeted by an honor guard Wednesday as they arrive in Warsaw, Poland, for a visit ahead of the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.