Heated G20 hopes to bring new life to global cooperation

US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting, Thursday evening in Hamburg. [G20 German Presidency]

The world’s twenty most powerful countries will try to build a new consensus on global issues such as trade and the fight against climate change amid growing tensions among the largest partners.

The leaders of the G20 will meet today and tomorrow in Hamburg (7-8 July) in an effort to restore the global cooperation that emerged after the financial crisis in 2008.

But this multilateral system to address issues including trade, climate change and migration lost relevance as old and new controversial leaders disrupted the international efforts.

As a host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will lead the push for maintaining an open and cooperative globalisation to benefit all citizens and countries.

Disagreements over key topics such as trade and the climate action and the large anti-globalisation protests seen over the last days in Hamburg showed the chancellor faces an uphill battle.

Hamburg braces for violent anti-G20 protests

Hamburg braced for potentially violent ‘Welcome to Hell’ protests against globalisation and the rich on the eve of the G20 summit on Thursday (6 July), with riot police on high alert deployed all over the centre of Germany’s second-largest city.

After almost 12 years in power, it may be one of the most difficult summits for Merkel at a time when she will be under the spotlight and the Germans will go to the ballot box in September.

In her role as G20 president, Merkel said yesterday that her focus would be building consensus among the G20 countries, but her intention is to represent the European interests.

In regards to trade, a level playing field, in particular equal access to national markets for investors, will be a key priority for the Europeans. However, expectations are low when it comes to finding a solution to this issue during the two-day summit.

European states complained over the last few months about the difficulties their firms face to invest in countries like China.

Leaders tone down Macron’s call for foreign investment scrutiny

A majority of member states on Friday (23 June) resisted a proposal by France, Germany and Italy designed to control and block foreign investment at EU level, citing fears about protectionism.

The other bone of contention will be the climate agenda. Following the US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement to fight climate change, the G20 countries are negotiating a statement to keep the effort against global warming on track.

But officials admit that a 19+1 side statement is an option, although an undesired one. Negotiations were ongoing to try to reach an acceptable compromise for the US and the rest of the countries.

Angry Europe vows to defend climate pact after Trump pullout

European leaders reacted with anger and defiance after President Donald Trump yesterday (1 June) announced the United States, the world’s second biggest carbon emitter, was quitting the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Merkel met yesterday evening with Trump. During the hour long talk, they discussed “some of the topics of the G20 agenda” and foreign policy issues, such as North Korea, the situation in the Middle East and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, a German government spokesperson said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his US counterpart Rex Tillerson were also part of the conversation.

The meeting also helped to ease the tension between the two leaders, following a series of remarks and accusations.

Both leaders shook hands in this occasion in a relaxed manner, in contrast with the cold welcome Trump gave to Merkel when she visited the White House last March.

Merkel and Trump clash over refugees in first meeting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump found little common ground on Friday (16 March) on the management of the refugee crisis, but promised to work out compromises to overcome the dispute over the trade relations.

After summits with Trump, Merkel says Europe must take fate into own hands

Europe can no longer completely rely on its allies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday (28 May), pointing to bruising meetings of G7 wealthy nations and NATO last week.

Trump will not be the only troublemaker in the room for the EU. Bilateral relations with the largest countries (China, Russia, Turkey) worsened over the last months.

President Vladimir Putin, who will meet Trump today, increased Russia’s efforts to obstruct EU policy in the Balkans and stands accused of interfering in the French and US elections.

Putin will meet on Saturday with Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. The conflict in eastern Ukraine is expected to be part of the discussion.

The disagreement with China over trade issues, especially Chinese steel dumping in Europe and the EU’s refusal to recognise China as a market economy,  affected joint efforts in other fields like climate change.

Merkel rejects Erdogan's ‘absurd’ Nazi comparison, calls for calm

Germany rejected as “absurd” yesterday (6 March) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comparison of its ban on several rallies to the Nazi era, but it also stressed the importance of ties between the two NATO allies in an attempt to defuse an escalating war of words.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will also be a difficult presence in the room, especially for Merkel. The autocratic turn his presidency took turned him into a controversial partner for the EU. But Erdoğan’s support remains essential to tackling illegal migration and the fight against ISIS.

Merkel also met with Erdoğan Thursday, late in the evening. A German government spokesperson said that in addition to the G20 agenda, they discussed the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement, as well as “contentious and cooperative aspects of current German-Turkish relations”.

Background

The presidents of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the European Council, Donald Tusk, represented the EU at the G20 summit. The leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain also attended the meeting.

The G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States and the EU. Spain has become a permanent guest country of the forum.

Together they represent around 90% of global GDP, 80% of global trade and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Timeline

  • 7-8 July: G20 summit in Hamburg (Germany).

Further Reading