World leaders meeting at the G-20 summit in Germany have agreed on almost every aspect of the joint communique, where in a victory for Merkel they vowed to fight protectionism and secure fair trade seeking to defuse President Donald Trump’s threats of unilateral measures the WSJ reported; they have so far failed, however, on a compromise position in the section on climate where the United States is pushing for a reference to fossil fuels, European Union officials said according to Reuters.
In the end it was "all against Trump": as the WSJ puts it, "securing Mr. Trump’s support for the G-20 communiqué, to be released later Saturday, as the president threatens to undermine the international order with his “America First” policies, is emerging as a rallying cry as the two-day gathering in Germany draws to a close."
For the head of the global diplomatic "resistance" against Trump and the so-called new "leader of the free world" Angela Merkel, the summit was an opportunity to show off her diplomatic skills ahead of a federal election in September, when she is seeking a fourth term in office. She treated the leaders to a concert at Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie on Friday night, where they listened to Beethoven while their aides began their all night slog to work out a consensus on trade that had eluded the leaders.
The communique comes after weeks of fears that Merkel, this year’s G20 president, might fail to achieve an agreement in the face of the disputes generated by Donald Trump by his criticisms of free trade and international cooperation and, especially, his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord, which the other 19 G-20 states support.
The consensus statement was drafted after "marathon meetings" resulted in compromises on deploying defensive measures for balanced trade and a recognition of the U.S.’s split from the other G-20 members on climate change. The officials said aides had worked until 2 a.m. to finalize the G-20 communique, overcoming differences on trade after U.S. officials agreed to language on fighting protectionism.
The G-20 agreement also follows days of continuous effort trying to reconcile disputes between the US and other nations while also taking account of the German Chancellor’s pledge to make clear important differences. According to the FT, the result will allow Merkel to claim a success even though the meeting has been overshadowed by violent anti-G20 demonstrations in Hamburg, and where the spotlight was on the first meeting between Trump and Putin.
Another official from a European delegation said the talks had shown that a new international consensus on economic issues could be slowly rebuilt despite the challenges thrown by Mr. Trump’s election.
“All things considered, my impression is that we’re getting back in small steps in many areas to a greater degree of business as usual,” the official said. The U.S. wasn’t alone in having different views on trade, the official added, pointing at the consensus on securing a level playing field as a common stance forged at the summit.
According to the FT, Berlin is also highlighting the opportunities given for bilateral meetings among world leaders, including the first face-to-face encounter between Mr Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin, which the two men described as “constructive”.
In addition to agreements over trade and migration, the communique includes commitments to address global overcapacity in steel, which could help defuse growing tension in the sector: the US has been considering sanctions against rival producers and the EU is preparing to retaliate, raising risks of a trade war.
With the final statement almost nailed down, the summit marked a diplomatic success for Merkel as she finessed differences with U.S. President Donald Trump, who arrived at the two-day summit isolated on a host of issues, and who was far more focused on his meeting with Putin. Even so he made a point of congratulating Merkel for her hosting: "You have been amazing and you have done a fantastic job. Thank you very much chancellor," Trump said.
Meanwhile, Trump on Friday said he found chemistry in his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two presidents discussed alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election but agreed to focus on future ties rather than dwell on the past, a result that was sharply criticized by leading Democrats in Congress.
* * *
Trump's bromance with Putin aside, on Saturday, the G-20 was delighted that Trump did not destroy any chance for a compromise.
"We have a G20 communique, not a G19 communique," an EU official said quoted by Reuters. "The outcome is good. We have a communique. There is one issue left, which is on climate, but I am hopeful we can find a compromise," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We have all the fundamentals."
Well almost: climate change policy proved a sticking point, with the United States pressing for inclusion of wording about which other countries had reservations. That passage read: "... the United States of America will endeavor to work closely with other partners to help their access to and use of fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently ..."
The climate section took note of Trump's decision last month to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate accord aimed at combating climate change, and reaffirmed the commitment of the other 19 members to the agreement.
According to Bloomberg, all G-20 members except for the U.S. said Paris accord on climate change is “irreversible,” as per the expected final statement,
“The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs”
“The United States of America states it will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally-determined contributions.”
“The Leaders of the other G-20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible”
* * *
As the leaders met on Saturday, police helicopters hovered overhead. Overnight, police clashed with anti-capitalist protesters seeking to disrupt the summit. In the early morning on Saturday, heavily armed police commandos moved in after activists had spent much of Friday attempting to wrest control of the streets from more than 15,000 police, setting fires, looting and building barricades. Police said 200 officers had been injured, 134 protesters temporarily detained and another 100 taken into custody.