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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.