G20 leaders reaffirm free trade but break with US on climate change


A final statement from the leaders of the world’s top economic powers Saturday reaffirmed their support for free trade but exposed a divide between the US and other G20 members on climate change.

The Group of 20 summit came up with compromise language on trade, although officials struggled to find common ground on another contentious issue, fighting climate change. In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, the group agreed in a draft statement to “take note” of the US withdrawal while the other 19 reaffirmed support of the Paris deal to limit emissions of greenhouse gases scientists say are behind global warming, leaving the US as the sole outlier.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was pleased that all G20 members besides the United States had agreed in a communiqué that the Paris climate accord was irreversible.

“I think it’s very clear that we could not reach consensus, but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated,” Merkel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting.

She called the US position “regrettable” and said she did not share the view of British Prime Minister Theresa May who said on Friday that she thought Washington could decide to return to the climate agreement.

At a press conference following the meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris would host a summit on climate change on December 12, 2017, two years after the landmark Paris accord.

“On December 12…I will organise a new summit in order to take new action for the climate, including on the issue of financing,” he said.

Despite Merkel’s reservations, Macron said that he still hoped to convince Trump to sign up for the climate agreement.

Meanwhile, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday discussed alleged Russian meddling in the US election but agreed to focus on future ties rather than dwell on the past, a result that was sharply criticised by leading Democrats in Congress.

Climate and trade were two of the most contentious issues at the summit, in part due to the assertive stance taken on both by Trump. He has said trade must be fair as well as open and must benefit American companies and workers. He has focused on trade relationships where other countries run large surpluses with the US, meaning they sell more to US consumers than they buy from American companies.

The G20 typically denounces protectionism, or the use of unfair means to keep out foreign competitors and protect domestic workers and companies. That stance has been kept, but it has been expanded to include references to the use of “legitimate trade defense instruments” when a country is faced with subsidised or otherwise unfair competition from a trade partner. Defensive measures are sometimes allowed under the current global trade rules supervised by the World Trade Organization.

The G20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the US and the European Union. The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Guinea, Senegal, Singapore and Vietnam are also attending.

Elsewhere in Hamburg, the talks competed for attention with violent clashes between anti-globalisation activists and police. Rioters set up street barricades, looting supermarkets and attacking police with slingshots and firebombs. Police said 200 officers had been injured, 134 protesters temporarily detained and another 100 taken into custody.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-07-08

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