Sum­mit ex­poses Trump’s iso­la­tion

LEAD­ERS EX­PRESS ANX­I­ETY AT G-20 De­fi­ance of climate pact threat­ens global al­liances

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY MICHAEL BIRN­BAUM AND DAMIAN PALETTA

hamburg — Pres­i­dent Trump and other world lead­ers on Satur­day emerged from two days of talks un­able to re­solve key dif­fer­ences on core is­sues such as climate change and glob­al­iza­tion, slap­ping an ex­cla­ma­tion point on a di­vi­sive sum­mit that left other na­tions fear­ing for the fu­ture of global al­liances in the Trump era.

The scale of dishar­mony was re­mark­able for the an­nual Group of 20 meet­ing of world eco­nomic pow­ers, a venue bet­ter known for sleepy bro­mides about easy-to-agree-on is­sues. Even as ne­go­tia­tors made a good-faith ef­fort to bar­gain to­ward con­sen­sus, Euro­pean lead­ers said that a chasm has opened be­tween the United States and the rest of the world.

“Our world has never been so di­vided,” French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said as the talks

broke up. “Cen­trifu­gal forces have never been so pow­er­ful. Our com­mon goods have never been so threat­ened.”

The di­vi­sions were most bit­ter on climate change, where 19 lead­ers formed a uni­fied front against Trump. But even in ar­eas of nom­i­nal com­pro­mise, such as trade, top Euro­pean lead­ers said they have lit­tle faith that an agree­ment forged to­day could hold to­mor­row.

Macron said world lead­ers found com­mon ground on terrorism but were oth­er­wise split on nu­mer­ous im­por­tant top­ics. He also said there were ris­ing con­cerns about “au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes, and even within the Western world, there are real di­vi­sions and un­cer­tain­ties that didn’t ex­ist just a few short years ago.”

“I will not con­cede any­thing in the di­rec­tion of those who are push­ing against mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism,” Macron said, with­out di­rectly re­fer­ring to Trump. “We need bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion, more co­or­di­na­tion. We need those or­ga­ni­za­tions that were cre­ated out of the Second World War. Oth­er­wise, we will be mov­ing back to­ward nar­row-minded na­tion­al­ism.”

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, who hosted the sum­mit in the port city of Hamburg, said there had been some ar­eas of agree­ment. But she did lit­tle to hide her dis­ap­point­ment about U.S. ac­tions on climate change.

“Wher­ever there is no con­sen­sus that can be achieved, dis­agree­ment has to be made clear,” Merkel said at the end of the sum­mit. “Un­for­tu­nately — and I de­plore this — the United States of Amer­ica left the climate agree­ment.”

“I am grat­i­fied to note that the other 19 mem­bers of the G-20 feel the Paris agree­ment is ir­re­versible,” Merkel said.

Per­haps as a way to em­pha­size global unity — mi­nus the United States — Macron an­nounced there would be an­other climate sum­mit in Paris in De­cem­ber to mark the two-year an­niver­sary of the climate ac­cord.

On trade, G-20 lead­ers agreed to try to ad­dress what the White House claims is a global steel glut. Trump of­fi­cials have threat­ened to re­strict steel im­ports, risk­ing the start of a global trade war, af­ter it has re­peat­edly al­leged that China sub­si­dizes the in­dus­try, which helps it lower prices and put U.S. steel jobs at risk.

The prom­ises to draw up pol­icy changes on steel pro­duc­tion were a vic­tory, White House of­fi­cials said.

But with the U.S. de­ci­sion to im­pose steel re­stric­tions still up in the air, Merkel said Satur­day’s agree­ments did lit­tle to re­solve the fu­ture.

“The ne­go­ti­a­tions re­main dif­fi­cult, but we have been able to get sat­is­fac­tory re­sults in place,” Merkel said. “Now, what’s go­ing to hap­pen to­mor­row or the day af­ter, I can­not make any pre­dic­tions on.”

One of­fi­cial said that Euro­peans were sharply un­set­tled by their en­coun­ters with Trump — and they rec­og­nized that may be the in­ten­tion of the White House.

“It seems clear that Pres­i­dent Trump is com­mit­ted to be­ing less pre­dictable and not nec­es­sar­ily see­ing pre­dictabil­ity as pos­i­tive in for­eign pol­icy,” said the Euro­pean of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to can­didly as­sess the White House.

The sum­mit came af­ter Trump soft­ened his op­po­si­tion to some other mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions. Af­ter chal­leng­ing the NATO de­fense al­liance, he en­dorsed its all-for-one, one-for-all prin­ci­ples just ahead of the G-20 sum­mit. And Trump has agreed to abide by the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, so long as it can be rene­go­ti­ated.

White House of­fi­cials also saw the po­ten­tial to draw a win from the Hamburg sum­mit, even if their ex­pec­ta­tions were mea­sured. They hoped to ex­plain Trump’s pri­or­i­ties and find com­pro­mises, even small ones.

Their as­sess­ment of the out­come was sharply dif­fer­ent from Merkel and Macron’s cau­tious tone.

“It’s been a re­ally great suc­cess,” a se­nior White House of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to speak on the record said Satur­day be­fore Trump de­parted for the United States. “We are go­ing to get some of the pri­or­i­ties of the ad­min­is­tra­tion” out of this sum­mit.

White House of­fi­cials pointed to sev­eral mi­nor changes to the G-20’s of­fi­cial state­ment on trade pol­icy, say­ing it bet­ter re­flects the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s point of view.

“We recog­nise that the ben­e­fits of in­ter­na­tional trade and in­vest­ment have not been shared widely enough,” the G-20 coun­tries said in a joint state­ment. “We need to bet­ter en­able our peo­ple to seize the op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Sim­i­lar lan­guage was not in the G-20 agree­ment in 2016 be­fore Trump’s election.

The White House also won a bit­ter bat­tle over its de­sire to in­clude lan­guage that pro­moted U.S. fos­sils fu­els in the fi­nal state­ment — word­ing that Euro­pean lead­ers sharply op­posed.

Trump also prod­ded other coun­tries to in­ten­sify a re­view of the over­pro­duc­tion of steel, some­thing Trump al­leges has rav­aged the U.S. steel in­dus­try be­cause it can­not com­pete with cheaper prices from coun­tries such as China. In re­sponse to the White House push, the G-20 agreed to share in­for­ma­tion about steel pro­duc­tion by Au­gust and to pub­lish a for­mal re­port with rec­om­men­da­tions by Novem­ber. There prob­a­bly will not be con­se­quences if the dead­lines are missed, but it cre­ates a for­mal process for the White House to am­plify its com­plaints.

Global steel manufacturing has soared, with China ac­count­ing for half the world’s pro­duc­tion, com­pared with 15 per­cent in 2000, although the United States im­ports rel­a­tively lit­tle from China. Bei­jing agreed to the new G-20 steel re­quire­ments on Satur­day.

Although the shifts may con­sti­tute short-term vic­to­ries for Trump, one for­mer se­nior of­fi­cial with the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund said Wash­ing­ton may have in­curred long-term losses.

“It comes at a cost of erod­ing U.S. lead­er­ship,” said Eswar Prasad, a se­nior pro­fes­sor at Cor­nell Univer­sity. “If even in calm times such rifts are ex­posed, it could make it more com­pli­cated for the group to work to­gether in more com­pli­cated cir­cum­stances.”

Trump also had the chance to forge one-on-one re­la­tion­ships with lead­ers as the sum­mit un­folded around him. It in­cluded his first face-to-face meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, which stretched more than two hours, and also his first post-election meet­ing with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto.

Re­la­tions be­tween the United States and Mex­ico have been strained since Trump took of­fice, in part be­cause of the U.S. leader’s in­sis­tence that Mex­ico would pay for the cre­ation of a new wall along the U.S. bor­der. When re­porters were briefly al­lowed in the room for their meet­ing on Fri­day and he was asked whether he still wanted Mex­ico to pay for the wall, Trump re­sponded “ab­so­lutely.”

Peña Ni­eto did not agree to pay for the con­struc­tion of the wall dur­ing the meet­ing, and a per­son briefed on the dis­cus­sions said Trump did not press the is­sue dur­ing their talks.

There were other signs that Trump en­joyed the visit. At a din­ner and re­cep­tion for world lead­ers and their spouses Fri­day night, Trump was among the last to leave. At an event Satur­day morn­ing to an­nounce an ini­tia­tive to fund fe­male en­trepreneur­ship, Trump called Merkel “in­cred­i­ble,” Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau “spec­tac­u­lar,” and de­clared that World Bank Pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim “would be a great ap­point­ment.”

On Twit­ter, Trump called the sum­mit a “won­der­ful suc­cess” that was “car­ried out beau­ti­fully” by Merkel. He also said he had “an ex­cel­lent meet­ing on trade & North Korea” with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

Still, Trump did lit­tle to cel­e­brate the G-20’s out­come. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama typ­i­cally marked the end of global sum­mits with a news con­fer­ence, weigh­ing in on is­sues he and other lead­ers dis­cussed.

And on Satur­day, many other world lead­ers, in­clud­ing Putin and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, held lengthy brief­ings with re­porters in Hamburg.

Trump had a dif­fer­ent plan. When the sum­mit ended, the pres­i­dent and his aides got in their mo­tor­cade, went right to the air­port and flew back to the United States.

HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS

Marchers carry flags and ban­ners as they par­tic­i­pate in a demon­stra­tion tout­ing “sol­i­dar­ity with­out bor­ders in­stead of G-20” on Satur­day in Hamburg, where lead­ers of the world’s eco­nomic pow­ers were gath­ered for the an­nual Group of 20 sum­mit.

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