Knives out for Trump at G20 sum­mit

● US pres­i­dent un­der fire for trade, cli­mate change and iso­la­tion­ist stance

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - World - Ji­ten­dra Joshi

G20 lead­ers opened an­nual talks on Fri­day stalked by the deep­est di­vi­sions since their first sum­mit 10 years ago, with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump un­der fire for de­stroy­ing the group’s past con­sen­sus on trade and cli­mate change.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin set the tone by con­demn­ing the “vi­cious” use of sanc­tions and trade pro­tec­tion­ism.

The tar­get was clear, as Trump – who can­celled a planned meet­ing with Putin in Buenos Aires – tears up the sta­bil­ity pro­moted by the G20 pow­ers when they first con­vened in No­vem­ber 2008 in the grip of fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Putin’s at­tack, and sim­i­lar crit­i­cism of Trump’s iso­la­tion­ist stance by French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, capped an in­ci­dent-packed build-up to the G20 that in­cluded flare-ups over Ukraine and Saudi Ara­bia.

Putin grinned broadly and wel­comed Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man like a long-lost friend with a high-five ahead of a group photo where Trump stood grimly.

The sum­mit marks a quick re­turn to the in­ter­na­tional stage for Prince Mo­hammed after the king­dom came un­der fire for the killing of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi in its Is­tan­bul con­sulate.

Macron and British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May both said they were rais­ing the killing of Khashoggi dur­ing meet­ings with the 33-year-old prince.

May told British me­dia she in­tended to use the sum­mit to sell the vi­sion of a “global Bri­tain” after its Brexit de­par­ture from the Eu­ro­pean Union, sched­uled for March 2019.

EU pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk was more fo­cused on the Ukraine cri­sis, say­ing at the G20 that he was “sure” the bloc would roll over its sanc­tions on Rus­sia in De­cem­ber.

On the G20 front, Tusk ad­mit­ted the world was un­der­go­ing a “dif­fi­cult mo­ment” over­all, as Trump pur­sues a vi­sion at odds with the idea of col­lec­tive ac­tion on trade and cli­mate change.

US ob­jec­tions on those fronts have seen two ma­jor sum­mits this year, of the Group of Seven democ­ra­cies and the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion fo­rum, end with­out the once-rou­tine state­ments.

The same dis­putes were hob­bling adop­tion of a G20 com­mu­nique, ob­servers said.

One French source said Macron was try­ing to build an anti-Trump front with a sep­a­rate state­ment em­braced by “pro­gres­sive coun­tries”.

Such a state­ment would en­dorse the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change, the source said, after Trump yanked the US out of the pact.

With a ma­jor UN meet­ing on cli­mate change start­ing in Poland straight after the G20, UN chief An­to­nio Guter­res said in Buenos Aires that “this is a make-it-or-break-it mo­ment”.

For Trump, there was no es- cape from the length­en­ing shadow of the US in­ves­ti­ga­tion over Rus­sian med­dling in his 2016 elec­tion, which is now reach­ing into his busi­ness af­fairs.

The US pres­i­dent be­gan Fri­day with an­other Twit­ter blast de­fend­ing his past prop­erty deal­ings in Rus­sia, again de­nounc­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a “witch hunt”, a day after his exlawyer pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress over the af­fair.

On the G20 mar­gins, Trump scored one vic­tory for his “Amer­ica First” agenda with the sign­ing of a suc­ces­sor to the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment the US-Mex­i­coCanada Agree­ment.

Although the new pact in­her­its key fea­tures from the old one, Trump has de­clared it a vic­tory for the US work­ers he claims were cheated by Nafta and on Fri­day called it the most “mod­ern and bal­anced agree­ment in his­tory”.

The pres­i­dent has also ig­nited a trade war with China, and will dine with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on Satur­day after the G20 sum­mit con­cludes.

But Trump, ar­gu­ing con­tro­ver­sially that his trade tar­iffs are pay­ing off, said he may now not want a deal with Xi. – AFP

VLADIMIR PUTIN

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