United States stands apart as G-20 summit stumbles on trade, climate

Roman Schwartz
December 1, 2018

Following Argentine President Mauricio Macri's remarks Friday at a news conference at Macri's Casa Rosada residence, Trump shook the South American leader's hand before quipping, "I think I understood you better in your language than I did on this, but that's OK".

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the G20 nations to resist protectionism and maintain a multilateral trade system, one day before a high-stakes working dinner with US President Donald Trump that could see the two men halting or even ending their trade war.

Trump arrived in Buenos Aires for the summit late Thursday night, marking the first time he has set foot in Latin America in his almost two years in office and kicking off what promises to be a whirlwind 48-hour visit.

Asked about the incident at the G20 summit later in the day, Ms. Sanders told The Washington Times she was not aware of any misunderstanding.

"We're in very good shape", Kudlow said.

"I believe that both China and the United States are very keen to see a more open trading environment around the world, more trade all across the world and particularly between their two nations and we all benefit from that", he said.

On the G-20 front, Tusk admitted the world was undergoing a "difficult moment" overall, as Trump pursues a vision at odds with the idea of collective action on trade and climate change.

Xi has in turn cast himself as a defender of stable global capitalism, a startling transformation for the leader of a communist state whose entry into the World Trade Organization less than two decades ago was controversial.

Another big unknown, however, may be Trump's personal unpredictability and his penchant for injecting drama into his appearances on the world stage.

But on the G20 margins, Trump scored one victory for his "America First" agenda with the signing of a successor to the North American free trade pact Nafta, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

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Although the new pact inherits key features from the old one, Trump has declared it a victory for the USA workers he claims were cheated by NAFTA and on Friday called it the most "modern and balanced agreement in history".

"I have another 250 billion dollars' worth of tariffs to put on if we don't make a deal", Trump told reporters last week.

"Just getting to know each other and so far so good, I think it's going to be a great relationship", Trump said in the meeting in Buenos Aires.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke at the press availability with Trump ahead of their meeting.

A Chinese foreign ministry official in Buenos Aires said there were signs of increasing consensus ahead of the discussions but that differences persisted. Another USD 200 billion has been hit with a 10 per cent tariff with plans to increase that to 25 per cent on January 1.

President Trump said recently that current tariff levels on $200bn (£157bn) of Chinese imports would rise as planned.

Trump has long railed against China's trade surplus with the United States and Washington accuses Beijing of not playing fairly on trade.

Xi and other leaders from the so-called BRICS group of leading emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - issued a statement calling for a continued commitment to open worldwide trade and support of a multilateral trading system via a strengthening of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Mr Trump said: "Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russian Federation, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin".

A number of high-stakes bilateral meetings over the next two days are likely to be dominated by the trade war between the United States and China, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the suspected involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the slaying of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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