G-20 meet ends with compromise on trade, climate change

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting US President Donald Trump in Hamburg yesterday. They reaffirmed the two sides' excellent bilateral ties and committed to work together to advance relations.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting US President Donald Trump in Hamburg yesterday. They reaffirmed the two sides' excellent bilateral ties and committed to work together to advance relations.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

World's major economies commit to open markets but let US stand apart on Paris deal

Leaders of the world's major economies, including the United States, have committed to keep markets open and fight trade protectionism at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit. But a deep chasm remains between the US and the other 19 members on climate change.

After a two-day summit fraught with tension inside and protests outside, the final statement from the G-20 leaders also tacitly recognised US President Donald Trump's concerns about what he calls unfair trade practices.

It acknowledged the role of "trade defence instruments", giving Mr Trump wiggle room to follow up on threats to impose tariffs on steel imports from countries such as China and push on with his "America First" policy.

In her closing press conference, summit host Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said: "I am satisfied that we were able to say markets need to be kept open."

But on climate change, she said she "deplored" America's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, but said all other nations agree that the climate accord is "irreversible".

Breaking with tradition, a separate paragraph was added to state the US stance on the continued use and sale of fossil fuels that are the main drivers of global warming.

 
 
 
 

GROWING TIES

The Prime Minister of Singapore - we're very close, the relationship is very close, and we expect to do some excellent things together in many ways. We have a very big relationship now. It will probably get much bigger.

US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on his relationship with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"Wherever there is no consensus that can be achieved, disagreement has to be made clear," Dr Merkel said at the end of the summit.

Earlier yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Mr Trump for the first time. They reaffirmed the two countries' excellent bilateral ties and committed to work together to advance the relationship, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office. It added that President Trump is looking forward to receiving PM Lee in Washington later this year.

Mr Lee welcomed the Trump administration's continued engagement of the Asia-Pacific and looked forward to his participation in the Asean-US Summit, East Asia Summit, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in November. The leaders also exchanged views on regional and international developments.

After shaking hands with Mr Lee, Mr Trump said: "The Prime Minister of Singapore - we're very close, the relationship is very close, and we expect to do some excellent things together in many ways."

He added: "We have a very big relationship now. It will probably get much bigger."

Mr Lee also met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the summit. They pledged to continue supporting efforts to explore the way forward for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The US withdrew from the TPP in January, but the remaining 11 members have agreed to press on with the trade deal.

They also discussed developments on the Korean Peninsula, with Mr Lee expressing Singapore's grave concerns over escalating tensions there. Earlier this week, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which experts say could allow it to strike Alaska.

Yesterday, Dr Merkel, who is running for re-election in September, presented the summit as a success - while admitting the meeting had been overshadowed by violent anti- G-20 demonstrations, with at least 210 police officers hurt and 265 protesters detained as of yesterday.

Mr Trump congratulated her for the "fantastic job". Russian President Vladimir Putin praised her for finding an "optimal compromise" on the touchiest issue of climate, a view echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'G-20 meet ends with compromise on trade, climate change'. Print Edition | Subscribe