Ahead of next week's G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, chancellor Merkel had some fiery words about her two least favorite topics: Donald Trump and Brexit. In a speech to lawmakers in Germany’s lower house of parliament on Thursday, Merkel said that “the world has become less united” and acknowledged that discussions at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg on July 7-8 “will be very difficult.” Quoted by Bloomberg, Merkel said that “the discord is obvious and it would be dishonest to paper over the conflict."
The unexpectedly confrontational posture comes as Germany is set to host world leaders including President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who are expected to hold their first head-to-head meeting in Hamburg, although the details have not yet been ironed out. Also present will be China's Xi Jinping and Merkel's nemesis, Turkey's president Erdogan, with the meeting taking place "amid a global shake-up that threatens much of the international order on issues established since World War II. On the agenda for the meeting are free trade, climate change and migration."
If recent G-20 summits are any indication, next week's meeting is likely to end in confusion and even more fingerpointing, with little in terms of consensus and even shorter communiques.
Aware of the upcoming dissensus, to use a word coined by Deutsche Bank, Merkel took a swipe at Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, saying that nations turning to isolation and protectionism are making a serious mistake and showcased a renewed “spirit of unity” in the European Union after the U.K. decision to exit.
All the same, the G-20 takes place “amid a particular set of challenges,” she said. “I’m convinced that we need the G-20 more urgently than ever before, because we can only move things together,” Merkel said. “Whoever believes that you can solve problems through isolation and protectionism is making a grave error.”
However, as Bloomberg notes, the German leader reserved her most dramatic language for the Paris climate treaty after Trump pulled out of the global accord aimed at confronting climate change, which Merkel called “irreversible and not negotiable.”
“We want to tackle this existential challenge and we can’t and we won’t wait until the last person on earth is convinced of the scientific basis for climate change,” Merkel said slamming Trump's recent pullout from the Paris accord.
Merkel also accentuated the recent geopolitical pivot, in which Germany has distanced itself from its formerly staunchest allies the US and UK, and toward France:
In response to Trump’s inward shift, Merkel played up new French President Emmanuel Macron as an ally, saying the German-France axis will drive forward European unity, “regardless of Brexit.” She is hosting Macron in Berlin on Thursday along with European leaders including the U.K.’s Theresa May and Paolo Gentiloni of Italy to align their position ahead of the G-20.
“It’s clear to both of us that German and French interests are extremely closely linked when it comes to Europe’s future,” she said.
And while the G-20 meeting will likely end up a flop, one wildcard remains: China. While Merkel has reached out to Beijing as a partner on climate change and free trade, she’s also warning Chinese investors that they may face restrictions in Europe.
Germany’s government is “thinking about defining industrial sectors of strategic importance for Europe,” Merkel said in an interview with business weekly WirtschaftsWoche published Thursday. “For instance, we decided to resume major investments in microchips. If countries like China want to buy up what was just built up with a lot of subsidies, we have to react.”
Ironically, in the "new new world order", China has emerged, at least in its own eyes, as the grand champion of free trade hoping to fill the void left by the "protectionist" US, in the process growing it regional and global influence. Which is ironic because China still remains among the world's most trade protectionist regimes, and if Merkel is hoping to pivot toward China as the next great source of trade, she is set for a major disappointment.