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US ‘holding out’ during G20 talks on trade, climate change and migration

European officials said they were facing opposition from the delegation led by President Donald Trump.

World leaders at the G20 (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)
World leaders at the G20 (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

The US has been blocking progress at the Group of 20 summit on fixing world trade rules, fighting climate change and tackling migration, according to European officials involved in the discussions.

The divisions among the world’s leading economies were evident from the moment the Argentinian president opened the summit on Friday with a call for international cooperation to solve the planet’s problems.

President Donald Trump sought to use the summit to make his own trade deals.

Meanwhile, two men under heavy criticism from the West lately, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, appeared to seek refuge in each other, bonding with a tough-guy hand grab as the leaders sat down around a huge round table for talks.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman adjusts his robe (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

Security concerns also weighed on the two-day talks in Buenos Aires.

Argentina’s security minister said eight petrol bombs were discovered in an area of the capital several miles from the summit venue where a protest in the afternoon drew thousands of demonstrators who held up banners with slogans like Go Away G-20 and Go Away Trump.

Diplomats from the Group of 20 countries were haggling hard over a final summit statement, with deep divisions over what language to use on the Paris climate accord and the World Trade Organisation.

Two European officials involved in the discussions said the US was blocking progress on both.

So an unorthodox solution emerged: Because of resistance from the Trump administration, an official in the French president’s office said the statement may have language that sets the US apart.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens as France’s President Emmanuel Macron speaks to him (Mikhail Klimentyev/AP)

For example, a draft says 19 of the participants agree on the importance of upholding the Paris climate accord, but the US does not.

The officials said the US was also blocking any mention of migration in the final statement.

Argentina’s foreign minister Jorge Faurie said trade talks were moving forward and nations were continuing to work on climate change wording.

“All issues being discussed at the summit have the same relevance,” he told reporters.

“We are debating (trade and climate change) more closely because we want to reach the consensus of all the countries involved.”

Protesters in Buenos Aires (Sebastian Pani/AP)

Mr Faurie said that the final communique does not require the signature of presidents.

Despite Mr Trump’s dismissal of concerns about global warming, China, France and the United Nations came together Friday to pledge their support for the Paris climate accord.

Their declaration was meant to encourage other G20 members to do the same, and to provide a boost for an upcoming UN climate summit.

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri kicked off the summit by acknowledging divisions within the G20 while urging world leaders to have a “sense of urgency” and take actions “based on shared interests”.

The summit is meant to focus on issues such as labour, infrastructure, development, financial stability, climate sustainability and international commerce.

President Donald Trump, right, walk past Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

But as the gathering got under way, those themes seemed like afterthoughts, overshadowed by contentious matters from the US-China trade dispute to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

European Council President Donald Tusk urged G20 leaders to discuss “trade wars, the tragic situation in Syria and Yemen, and Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

He said the European Union is expected to extend sanctions on Moscow over its “totally unacceptable” seizure of Ukrainian ships and their crews near the Crimean Peninsula.

“Europe is united in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Mr Tusk said, calling the standoff “a cause of great concern”.

Russia and Ukraine have traded blame over the weekend ship incident which Mr Trump cited in cancelling a much-awaited meeting with Mr Putin at the G20.

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, right, welcomes President Donald Trump (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

Russia’s foreign minister regretted the move, but said “love can’t be forced”.

Also looming large amid dozens of bilateral meetings in Buenos Aires: the gruesome slaying of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate and how the Saudi crown prince, who is alleged to have ordered the killing, is received by world leaders.

As soon as he arrived, the crown prince was confronted by France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who pressed him on the Khashoggi investigation and the Saudi-backed war in Yemen.

The prince told Mr Macron not to worry, but Mr Macron countered: “I am worried.”

Saudi Arabia has denied that the crown prince played a role, but some leaders may be cool toward him to avoid seeming to legitimise a man who US intelligence agencies concluded ordered the killing.

Mr Trump’s administration has made clear it does not want to torpedo the longstanding US relationship with Riyadh, however.

It is the prince’s first significant appearance overseas since the killing.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia over the incident, is also in attendance.

Leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico, meanwhile, met in the morning to sign a trade deal replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement that was struck following months of tough negotiations that analysts say left a bitter taste among the partners.

Mr Trump called the pact a “model agreement that changes the trade landscape forever”.

It must still be ratified by politicians in all three countries, and passage in the US could face a tough road in the House of Representatives after Democrats won a majority in November midterm elections.

While Mr Trump cancelled his meeting with Mr Putin, the US president was still scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but analysts were not optimistic about prospects for a major breakthrough on the two countries’ trade disputes a month before US tariffs on Chinese goods are set to ramp up.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was supposed to get in to Buenos Aires early Friday, but her arrival was delayed when her plane suffered a technical problem.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph