Steel overcapacity, North Korea squeeze into G20 discussions

European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speak to reporters minutes before the G20 summit started in Hamburg. [European Commission]

As the G20 summit kicks off in Hamburg (Germany), China’s steel overcapacity and the response to North Korea will play an important part in the leaders’ discussions.

The gathering of the most powerful nations on earth started in a city patrolled by 20,000 policemen and inhabited by hundreds of thousands of protesters (around 100,000 according to some estimates).

Speaking to reporters before the first session started, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “we are not blind and deaf” referring to the anti-globalisation demonstrators, who tried to stop the motorcades of the delegations and held a massive march on the eve of the summit.

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.

The organisers complained about the police response to a mostly peaceful march, as the security forces used water cannons and pepper spray against the demonstrators.

According to police officials, 22 demonstrators were arrested and 122 policemen were injured during the protests.

Terrorism, global economy and trade, and climate will be part of the agenda of the first day of the two-day summit. Besides the official agenda, these are some of the key issues to watch out for:

Steel overcapacity: the 300 million tons of steel China produces (half of the world’s capacity) is a key concern for European countries and for the US. A greater commitment by Chinese President Xi Jinping to address the overcapacity could not only tone down US President Donald Trump’s protectionism rhetoric, but also facilitate an agreement on the climate agenda.

US negotiators linked a greater involvement of China in the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity to their stance on the joint declaration on supporting the global efforts to cut CO2 emissions, European officials said.

For the host of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the climate statement is a top priority, following Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The question is how far she is willing to go in watering down the joint communiqué in order to accommodate the resistance of the US and other major oil nations like Saudi Arabia.

As a backup plan, officials are prepared to adopt a 19+1 declaration. Merkel is wary of this option, as it would show weakening global cooperation on such a relevant issue, and would set a dangerous precedent for future G20 summits, where consensus is the general rule.

19-against-one unity on climate under threat at G20

Angela Merkel wants all countries in the group except the US to sign up to a strong statement supporting the Paris Agreement but Saudi Arabia and others may resist.

North Korea: the successful launching of a long-range missile by North Korea days before the summit started put the dictatorship on top of the agenda for the US Administration, and subsequently for the rest of the nations.

An effective response to North Korea leader Kim Jong-un’s threatening actions would be the main concern during the bilateral talks Trump will hold today with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first meeting between the two leaders, and tomorrow with Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

Yesterday, the EU institutions and Japan also issued a statement calling for a new round of sanctions against North Korea.

EU to consider additional North Korea sanctions after missile launch

The European Union on Tuesday (4 July) warned it may consider additional sanctions against North Korea after it carried out what Pyongyang tested what it claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Nord Stream 2: Free trade deals seem to be the factor that shaped the G20 agenda for the EU chiefs Juncker and Donald Tusk. The presidents of the European Commission and European Council will meet with the leaders of Australia, Vietnam, Singapore and Argentina.

But Juncker will also meet tomorrow morning with Putin. The main issue between the two will be Nord Stream 2, the controversial pipeline project that will bring Russian gas to Germany, bypassing Ukraine. Tusk, whose views about this project are “negative” as he said, will not participate.

Commission passes the Nord Stream 2 buck to member states

The Commission asked the member states on Friday (9 June) for a mandate to negotiate with Russia an agreement on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. It is very likely to obtain permission, despite several Central European countries strongly oppose it.

As EURACTIV reported, the Commission president has been preparing the ground for months to give the green light, despite the concerns also expressed by his energy experts. Last month, he asked member states for a mandate to negotiate an agreement with Russia on the pipeline.

Meanwhile, Tusk focused his remarks this morning on the fight against illegal migration. He called on G20 leaders to be “ruthless” against smugglers by imposing sanctions on them. But he lamented the “hypocrisy” of some G20 nations that are not willing to step up the efforts against the mafias trafficking with the migrants.

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