G20 Summit: Trump Diverges With Partners On Climate Change, Protectionism


Buenos Aires: In what was being anticipated much, US President Donald Trump diverged with his G20 partners at the summit in Buenos Aires Argentina on Saturday as he declined to back the global action on climate change and do away with past pledges to fight for trade protectionism.

Leaders of 20 biggest economies found the minimum common ground to fix global economy as only 19 of them agreed to support the Paris agreement on climate. 

A final communique, adopted at the conclusion of the gathering, said all the other G20 members agreed to implement the “irreversible” Paris Agreement while respecting different paces of economic development.

However, it said the “United States reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement”, mirroring the divergence seen last year when Trump shocked the global community by bucking the consensus at his first G20.

The statement also omitted pledges by the G20 to fight protectionism and uphold multilateral trading rules, which used to be a mainstay of the world’s leading economies in a pre-Trump era.

Instead, the group merely recognised the “contribution” of the “multilateral trading system” and added that it was “falling short” in its goals of growth and job creation.

Bush’s death causes rare show of unity

Trump’s determination to plow on with his “America First” agenda stands in contrast to the alliance-building presidency of George HW Bush, whose death on Friday triggered a rare show of unity among G20 leaders.

The US president said his predecessor’s passing would prevent him from holding a post-summit news conference scheduled later on Saturday “out of respect” for the Bush family.

It was Trump’s second cancellation during the summit after he snubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin in Buenos Aires, citing Russia’s recent naval skirmish with Ukraine. Trump also downgraded his meetings with other G20 leaders to make them less formal.

It means Trump will no longer face press questions over new developments this week stemming from a US investigation into whether his presidential campaign colluded with Russia, which has now spread to cover his past business dealings.

The Russia-Ukraine escalation and killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi officers in Istanbul were among the issues flared up at the two-day summit, which was also attended by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump’s isolationist rampage is the polar opposite of the West’s post-war consensus on trade and diplomacy built by Bush and his predecessors in the White House.

IMF warns of economic upheavel

The G20 leaders, whose nations represent four-fifths of the global economy, heard warnings from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of worldwide upheaval if Trump continues on his tariff-strewn path.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde warned the leaders that “the global economy faces a critical juncture” and that erecting trade barriers was “self-defeating”.

The threat of Britain crashing out of the European Union without a negotiated deal is another potential headwind, the IMF said, as Prime Minister Theresa May used the summit to sell her vision of  a “global Britain” after Brexit.

For financial markets, the weekend’s main course comes after the summit when Trump is due to have dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires.

Trump, who has already slapped $250bn in tariffs on China and threatened more to come next month, sounded upbeat about making progress with Xi.

“We’re working very hard. If we could make a deal, that would be good,” he said on Friday.

Trump has thrown out the traditional US playbook on free trade since his shock 2016 election, vowing to protect forgotten workers and demanding a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

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