World lead­ers ar­rive for G-20 sum­mit.

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Luis An­dres Henao, An­gela Charl­ton and Peter Orsi

BUENOS AIRES, AR­GENTINA

» World lead­ers ar­rived Thurs­day in the Ar­gen­tine cap­i­tal for the Group of 20 sum­mit of the globe’s largest economies as is­sues such as a trade war be­tween the United States and China, the killing of a Saudi jour­nal­ist in the coun­try’s Is­tan­bul Con­sulate and the con­flict over Ukraine threat­ened to over­shadow the gath­er­ing.

The two-day sum­mit be­gin­ning to­day is sup­posed to fo­cus on de­vel­op­ment, in­fras­truc­ture and food se­cu­rity, but those seemed largely an af­ter­thought amid soured U.S.-Eu­ro­pean re­la­tions and as the United States, Mex­ico and Canada ham­mered out the fi­nal lan­guage of a re­place­ment for the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment ex­pected to be signed to­day.

Michael Shifter, head of the In­ter-Amer­i­can Di­a­logue, a Wash­ing­ton-based think tank, said that this G-20 sum­mit was once con­sid­ered an op­por­tu­nity for Latin Amer­i­can mem­bers Ar­gentina, Brazil and Mex­ico “to project a re­gional bloc to shape a global agenda.”

But, he said, “that turned out to be a fleet­ing as­pi­ra­tion.”

“The fact that the G-20 is tak­ing place in South Amer­ica for the first time is al­most be­side the point,” Shifter said. “Ar­gen­tine Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri, the sum­mit’s host, has low­ered ex­pec­ta­tions. ... Now a suc­cess would be a sum­mit meet­ing that goes smoothly, with­out any ma­jor dis­rup­tion.”

None­the­less, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who flew into Buenos Aires on Wed­nes­day as one of the ear­li­est ar­rivers, clung to the im­por­tance of the ideal of co­op­er­a­tion that the G-20 rep­re­sents.

“I be­lieve in our ca­pac­ity to make the spirit of di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion tri­umph,” Macron said at a joint news con­fer­ence with Macri, warn­ing that if na­tions “close down,” the al­ter­na­tive could be trade wars or armed con­flict.

Macron also called for in­ter­na­tional in­volve­ment and “com­plete clar­ity” in in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the killing of dis­si­dent Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, and said Eu­ro­pean lead­ers should dis­cuss it at a meet­ing to­day.

Macri said the mat­ter of the killing would be “on the table” dur­ing bi­lat­eral and pos­si­bly broader meet­ings.

Saudia Ara­bia has de­nied that Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man played a role in Khashoggi’s grue­some slay­ing. But Hu­man Rights Watch ac­cuses him of re­spon­si­bil­ity and also of war crimes in Ye­men, and on Wed­nes­day, Ar­gen­tine le­gal au­thor­i­ties took ini­tial ac­tion to con­sider a re­quest to pros­e­cute him for al­leged crimes against hu­man­ity, a move ap­par­ently aimed at em­bar­rass­ing him as he at­tends the sum­mit.

It is to be bin Sal­man’s first sig­nif­i­cant ap­pear­ance over­seas since the killing. Turkey’s Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who has been sharply crit­i­cal of Saudi Ara­bia over the in­ci­dent, is also in at­ten­dance.

“Given the role that Turkey has played in this, given that the mur­der hap­pened at the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, this will be an in­ter­est­ing meet­ing,” said Wil­lis Sparks, di­rec­tor of global macro pol­i­tics at Eura­sia Group. “Just to see how lead­ers in­ter­act with the crown prince will be in­ter­est­ing — how warm they are. I ex­pect (U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald) Trump to be very warm with him, but Eu­ro­pean lead­ers prob­a­bly are go­ing to be very re­luc­tant to have their pic­tures taken with him.”

Trump is sched­uled to meet with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, but an­a­lysts were not op­ti­mistic about prospects for a ma­jor break­through on the two coun­tries’ trade dis­putes.

Shan­non O’Neil, an ex­pert on global trade at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, said she be­lieves it “very likely” that the tar­iffs will take ef­fect in Jan­uary.

“I think this is an is­sue that Trump cares a lot about and is go­ing to use when he cam­paigns for 2020,” O’Neil said. “It used to be Mex­ico and NAFTA, and now it’s go­ing to be China.”

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