G-20 NATIONS AGREE ON TRADE
Leaders of the Group of 20 agreed to fix the world trading system after difficult all-night talks in the Argentine capital.
Leaders of the Group of 20 agreed Saturday to fix the world trading system after difficult all-night talks in the Argentine capital, but only 19 of them agreed to support the Paris accord on fighting climate change, with the United States the lone holdout.
The official summit statement acknowledges flaws in global commerce and calls for reforming the World Trade Organization. It doesn’t mention the word “protectionism,” however, after negotiators said that had met resistance from the United States.
Applause broke out in the summit hall as the leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, signed off on a final statement at the end of a twoday summit.
The nonbinding agreement was reached after talks by diplomats stretched overnight and into daylight Saturday, amid deep divisions between member nations. European Union officials said the United States was the main holdout on nearly every issue. Trump has criticized the WTO and taken aggressive trade policies targeting China and the EU.
But China pushed back in talks on steel, South Africa objected to language on trade, Australia didn’t want the statement to be too soft on migration, and Turkey worried that it would push too far on climate change, according to the officials.
A senior White House official said the joint statement meets many U.S. objectives and emphasized that it includes language about WTO reform. The official also mentioned other elements, including language on workforce development and women’s economic development, and a commitment by China to doing infrastructure financing on “transparent terms.”
According to the official, the language on climate was necessary for Washington to sign on, and Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia had appeared sympathetic to the U.S. position but ultimately stayed with the other countries.
With trade tensions between the U.S and China dominating the summit, the Europeans sought to play mediator. They also scaled back their expectations, cutting out mention of rising protectionism – mainly aimed at Trump.
The final language of the statement says, regarding climate, that 19 nations that are signatories to the Paris accord reiterate their commitment to it while the U.S. reiterates its decision to withdraw. It also notes a recent U.N. report that warned damage from global warming will be much worse than previously feared, and expresses support for an upcoming U.N. climate meeting in Poland meant to nail down how countries will meet promises made in the Paris accord.
On global commerce, the statement says the 20 countries support multilateral trade but acknowledge that the current system doesn’t work and needs fixing, via “the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning.”
On migration, European officials said the U.S. negotiator said too much talk about it would have been a “deal-breaker” for Trump. So they came up with “minimalist” language that acknowledges growing migrant flows and the importance of shared efforts to support refugees and solve the problems that drive them to flee.
The statement also shows a commitment to a “rules-based international order,” despite Trump’s rejection of many of those rules.
“There were moments when we thought all was lost,” one European official said, “moments when we spent two hours on one sentence.”
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations.
Thomas Bernes of the Canada-based Centre for International Governance Innovation, who has held leading roles with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Canadian government, said the G-20 had “veered all over the road” at the summit and failed to truly fix trade. The U.S. was out of step on migration and climate change, and it blocked meaningful agreement on those issues, he said.
“Instead, leaders buried their differences in obscure language and dropped language to fight protectionism, which had been included in every G-20 communique since the leaders’ first summit,” he said. “This is clearly a retrograde step forced by United States intransigence.”
President Trump and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G-20 Summit. Merkel said the G-20 agreement would send a signal for global climate talks on Sunday.