Trade, cli­mate counter forces await Trump

Views out of sync in G-20; Ja­pan, EU near­ing ac­cord

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

MEET­ING PUTIN

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.

AP/CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI

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.

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