Merkel calls for compromise at start of G-20 talks

Anti-G20 protesters were stopped by police as they started their way from Hamburg's landing bridge towards the summit venue with scuffles erupting as protesters tried to make their way past a police blockade.

She faces challenge of steering group towards consensus on trade, climate and migration

HAMBURG • German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed fellow Group of 20 (G-20) leaders to compromise at the start of talks on climate and trade that have pitted US President Donald Trump against virtually every other country in the club of leading economies.

Dr Merkel, the host of the G-20 summit, addressed her counterparts in a hall at the Hamburg convention centre yesterday, saying: "We all know the big global challenges and we know that time is pressing."

She told the group: "And so solutions can only be found if we are ready for compromise and move towards each other, but without - and I stress this - bending too much, because of course we can also state clearly when there are differences."

Dr Merkel, who is gearing up for a parliamentary election in September, faces the daunting task of steering the G-20 towards a consensus on trade, climate change and migration - all issues that have become more contentious since Mr Trump took office in January promising an "America First" approach.

Last month, he pulled the US out of the landmark Paris Accord on combating climate change. He is also threatening to take punitive trade measures in the steel sector that would hit China, Germany, Canada and other countries.

Dr Merkel told reporters on Thursday: "I will do all I can to find compromises and answers to the questions that are important for shaping globalisation."

Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping took a swipe at the United States for retreating from globalisation. He slammed unnamed "major" developed nations for stoking geopolitical risks through calls to reverse globalisation and return to protectionism. He said China and others must respond by stepping into the leadership vacuum and pressing for their interests.

"Major developed countries have significantly backtracked positions on trade, climate change and other issues," he said before a meeting with fellow leaders from the so-called Brics group of major developing nations. These developments affect the Brics nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - and reinforce the need to step up coordination "to speak in one voice to steer the world economy in the right direction", he said.

The summit in the port city of Hamburg has been dominated by clashes between protesters and police. Protesters harried police yesterday as they tried to disrupt the summit hours after the authorities used water cannon on a group of about 1,000 people seeking to march to the site of the meeting.

US First Lady Melania Trump was stuck inside her guesthouse as demonstrators torched cars, smashed shop windows, fired flares at police helicopters and even slashed tyres on vehicles belonging to the Canadian delegation.

The violence forced Hamburg police to call in reinforcements from other German states, and G-20 organisers to drastically curtail an official programme for spouses of visiting dignitaries.

"The Hamburg police could not give us clearance to leave," said Mrs Trump's spokesman, Ms Stephanie Grisham, explaining why she had been forced to miss a cruise tour.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ST VIDEO

G20 protesters and police scuffle in Hamburg. str.sg/4atJ

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Merkel calls for compromise at start of G-20 talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe