G-20 summit

Nations agree on trade, disagree on climate

Thousands of protesters marched peacefully through Hamburg yesterday, the largest demonstration yet at an event that has been marred by looting, rioting and running street battles between black-clad anarchists and armoured police with water cannon ea
Thousands of protesters marched peacefully through Hamburg yesterday, the largest demonstration yet at an event that has been marred by looting, rioting and running street battles between black-clad anarchists and armoured police with water cannon earlier on Thursday and Friday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They pledge to fight excess steel supply; 19 say Paris deal must stay

HAMBURG • United States President Donald Trump's debut Group of 20 (G-20) summit yielded a concluding statement covered with the US leader's fingerprints.

While the meeting was marred by clashes and vandalism in protests throughout Hamburg, leaders inside the summit venue largely avoided the incendiary - striking a deal on trade, while agreeing to disagree on climate issues.

The talks ran into a major rift over global economic policy on Friday as Mr Trump, who spent much of his election campaign complaining about "unfair" trade hurting the US, held firm to his "America First" doctrine. G-20 officials were concerned about a trade war over steel as Mr Trump geared up for a decision on whether to impose punitive tariffs amid ongoing complaints about dumping on global markets.

During a working lunch with his G-20 counterparts, Mr Trump stressed he would always defend the American worker, according to a Western diplomatic official familiar with the closed-door session.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

French President Emmanuel Macron challenged Mr Trump's view that the US is losing out on trade, the official said. Taking out his mobile phone, Mr Macron said that when he bought it, he created a trade deficit with the US, but that when America built it, it created a trade deficit with China. His point was that it does not make sense to talk about bilateral trade deficits in a multilateral world, the official said.

In its final communique, the G-20 pledged renewed efforts to combat excess capacity in the steel industry, according to a leaked copy of the text.

"We will keep markets open, noting the importance of reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks," said the statement. The G-20 will "continue to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices and recognise the rule of legitimate trade defence instruments in this regard".

Mr Trump's administration is weighing whether to impose tariffs, quotas or a combination of both on steel imports under national security grounds through Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, even though only a fraction of US steel is used for defence. Mr Trump's Commerce Department launched its review in April, missed a self-imposed deadline for a decision last month and is expected to announce a verdict soon.

The final text was seen as a blow to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has resisted Washington's efforts to squarely blame his government for the excess capacity and depressed prices for steel products.

The final statement also underlined Mr Trump's lone stand on climate change, saying that all G-20 members, except for the US, "state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible".

In the statement, the US announced that "it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions, while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs".

However, the other G-20 leaders, while taking note of the US decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, agreed that the climate deal 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," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting yesterday.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched peacefully through Hamburg yesterday, the largest demonstration yet at an event that has been marred by looting, rioting and running street battles between black-clad anarchists and armoured police with water cannon.

A third day of clashes would have been bad news for Dr Merkel who wanted to showcase her commitment to free speech by holding the summit in Hamburg, a trading hub with a tradition of leftist radicalism.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'Nations agree on trade, disagree on climate'. Print Edition | Subscribe