Trump plays nice as divisive G20 opens


OSAKA, Japan, June 28, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – World leaders kicked off one of their
most high-stakes G20 meetings in years Friday, with rows brewing over a
bruising US-China trade war and climate change despite a more conciliatory
tone from US President Donald Trump.

After lashing out at friend and foe alike en route to Osaka in western
Japan for the meeting, Trump appeared in a less combative mood when meeting
fellow world leaders face-to-face.

Fresh from describing traditionally close US ally Germany as “delinquent”
for not paying enough into the NATO budget, he was effusive when meeting
Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“She’s a fantastic person, a fantastic woman and I’m glad to have her as a
friend,” he said.

Merkel appeared well during the talks, a day after a second public shaking
attack raised fears about her health. German officials insist she is not ill.

Likewise, Trump hailed his host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for
sending “many automobile companies” to the United States, apparently pleased
by a document Abe gave him showing investment into the US.

Only two days earlier, he had seemed to call into question the US-Japan
alliance, saying that Washington was committed to protecting Japan but if
America was attacked, the Japanese could just “watch it on a Sony

As the meeting opened, world leaders jostled and greeted each other during
the family photo with French President Emmanuel Macron and European
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker whispering extensively into Trump’s

Trump entered with President Vladimir Putin, chatting amicably, and the
Russian leader patted his American counterpart gently on the back as they
parted ways.

– ‘Very serious issues’ –

Despite the warm words in public, the meeting is shaping up to be one of
the most fractious in years, with clashes possible over trade, Iran, and
climate change.

The most eagerly anticipated part of the meeting will be on Saturday when
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold their first face-to-face since
the last G20, to thrash out a truce in a long-running trade war that has
stymied the world economy.

Experts believe there is little chance of a full deal immediately, saying
the best hope is for a truce that would avoid Washington imposing new tariffs
and ramping up the conflict.

But even a truce is not guaranteed, with the Wall Street Journal reporting
Thursday that Beijing will not agree to any deal unless Washington lifts its
ban on Chinese telecoms firm Huawei.

In an apparent reference to this issue, Trump at the opening session said:
“We must also ensure the resilience and security of our 5G networks.”

Before arriving, Trump said China wanted a ceasefire because its economy
was “going down the tubes”, appearing to also threaten another $325 billion
in levies in addition to the $200 billion Washington has already imposed.

After Xi held a meeting with counterparts from Egypt, South Africa and
Senegal, Dai Bing, an official from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said
“all leaders stressed that… bullying practices are on the rise.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who dined with Trump Thursday,
said the dispute would “take a lot to work through.”

“I walked away with the view that this is going to be tough, because there
are some very serious issues that they’re trying to resolve,” he told
Australia’s Channel 7 Sunrise programme.

– ‘Red line’ –

Trade will be far from the only contentious issue on the table, with
climate change emerging as another sticking point.

Host Japan is hoping to bridge the gaps between European leaders who want
strong action and an American administration committed to withdrawing from
the Paris climate agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants strong wording in
support of climate change action but Washington is unlikely to back any
statement endorsing the Paris deal.

With Macron insisting the issue is a “red line”, Japanese officials concede
agreement will be tough.

“The work to consolidate various opinions is expected to be difficult,” a
Japanese official admitted to reporters Thursday.

Macron has also he would not sign a major trade deal between the EU and
Latin American countries that some hope might be reached at the G20 if Brazil
withdraws from the Paris agreement.

Looming over the talks will also be continuing tensions in the Middle East.
Trump said before heading to Japan that any war with Iran “wouldn’t last

That assessment is unlikely to find favour among G20 leaders, with Macron
warning Thursday: “there are no short wars.”

When a war begins, he said, “we know when it starts, but rarely when it
will end.”