The challenges facing key players at G-20 summit

International tensions on trade are likely to come to a head at the upcoming G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
International tensions on trade are likely to come to a head at the upcoming G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.PHOTO: AFP

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - Global leaders will gather in the Argentine capital for a Group of 20 (G-20) summit beginning on Friday (Nov 30) that is likely to be dominated by simmering international tensions over trade.

Here is a quick guide to what's at stake for the main players.

UNITED STATES

US President Donald Trump, who has little interest in multilateral diplomacy, is coming to the G-20 summit for high-pressure talks with his counterparts in China and Russia.

Mr Trump has cast his Buenos Aires meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a deadline for Beijing to cave on key trade disputes or risk even further sanctions and pressure.

The G-20 will also mark Mr Trump's first substantive talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin since a July summit in Helsinki, where the US leader's deferential tone drew wide rebuke at home.

Mr Trump has resisted once-routine global calls to fight protectionism and in June took the extraordinary step of refusing to sign a statement at a summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies, furious at host Canada over trade disputes.

CHINA

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to meet Mr Trump to seek to break an impasse of their trade war on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.

Mr Xi has cast himself as a defender of globalisation and opponent of protectionism, but US and European governments say foreign companies still face many hurdles to doing business in the Communist-ruled country, including the forced transfer of technology or outright theft of intellectual property.

BRITAIN

British Prime Minister Theresa May's appearance is overshadowed by Brexit and in particular her attempt to convince lawmakers to ratify her agreement with the European Union.

The crucial vote, which could also decide the fate of her premiership, is due to be held on Dec 11.

She is widely expected to lose the vote because of fierce opposition from Brexiteer lawmakers within her own Conservative Party, who say it makes too many concessions to Brussels, and pro-EU MPs, who say it will devastate the British economy.

Mrs May became Prime Minister in July 2016 in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and has clung to power despite losing her parliamentary majority in elections in 2017.

She wants post-Brexit Britain to take a leading role on the global stage as an independent trading nation, but critics say her country's influence will wane outside of the EU.

TURKEY

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will seek to use the summit to again project his image on the international stage as a champion of the poor and oppressed as well as an un-ignorable figure in international diplomacy.

The G-20 is a crucial forum for Turkey as it seeks to build ties with key African and Latin American nations to assure its status as a global power.

Mr Erdogan is also likely to press for justice on causes close to his heart such as the Palestinians or the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

But the main focus could be on the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at whom Turkish pro-government media have pointed the finger of blame over the killing, expected to also attend.

Mr Erdogan and the prince have not met face to face since the crisis erupted.

ARGENTINA

Argentina's Prime Minister Mauricio Macri welcomes world leaders while his country has been brought its knees by an economic crisis which forced him to seek a massive International Monetary Fund bailout.

Hit by recession and 45 per cent inflation, the centre-right leader's chances of building a strong challenge for a second term in next year's elections look slim.

Deep public spending cuts have sparked a wave of strikes and street protests, and Mr Macri's problems have been exacerbated by a falling peso and a dip in the price of soybeans, Argentina's star export.

BRAZIL

With lame duck President Michel Temer in the waning days of his presidency, all eyes are on his far-right successor Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office on Jan 1.

Mr Bolsonaro will be conspicuous by his absence however, declining Mr Temer's invitation to attend on the grounds that he is still recovering from being stabbed and seriously injured during his election campaign.

However, some of his top aides are expected to attend and hold their first meetings with the entourages of like-minded protectionist leaders, like Mr Donald Trump.

RUSSIA

President Vladimir Putin arrives in Buenos Aires amid accusations from Ukraine that he is preparing for a full-scale war after Russia shot at and captured three of Kiev's ships.

Mr Putin will have a face-to-face meeting with Mr Trump on the sidelines of the summit, amid ongoing accusations that Russia colluded with Mr Trump's campaign team during his 2016 presidential election win.

In power since 1999, Mr Putin is an old hand at international summits and increasingly influential, with his country at the heart of major issues like the war in Syria, EU sanctions or tensions with Ukraine and Washington.

SAUDI ARABIA

The crown prince is expected to represent Riyadh in the face of a global outcry over Mr Khashoggi's murder.

The Gulf state's de facto ruler is likely to face Turkey's Erdogan, who has kept international pressure mounting on the kingdom over the grisly killing in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.

The summit would also be an opportunity for the prince to discuss energy markets with leaders of other top oil producers - notably Russia and the United States - amid the current slump in oil prices.

Saudi Arabia is set to host the G-20 summit in 2020.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to power this year, is a firm supporter of multilateralism and the World Trade Organisation, often underlining his commitment to international cooperation when speaking at home and abroad.

Facing a tricky election in May, he hopes the G-20 summit will help his efforts to attract US$100 billion (S$137 billion) of foreign investment over five years to boost the country's flagging economy and tackle record unemployment of nearly 28 per cent.