Germany braces for rough ride at G20 helm with Trump on board
BERLIN: Germany takes over the presidency of the G20 leading economies on Thursday, a platform Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to use to safeguard multilateral cooperation under threat following Donald Trump’s US election victory.
With the imminent departure of US President Barack Obama, Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term in office next year, is left as the senior leader anchoring a Western alliance shaken by Trump’s election win.
“Shaping an Interconnected World” is Germany’s motto for its presidency of the G20, which since the global financial crisis took hold in 2008 has been the leading forum for world leaders to coordinate economic policy.
German officials, while acknowledging privately that they will not have an easy ride next year leading the G20, stress that the motto indicates they want to take globalization forward through international cooperation rather than roll it back.
They plan to address issues including free trade and climate change on which they may well be at odds with Trump.
“It will certainly be exciting, lively, controversial,” said one G20 official.
Trump has said China — a G20 member — is “killing us” on trade and that he would take steps to reduce the large US goods trade deficit with China, including labeling Beijing as a currency manipulator soon after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Under the broad themes of stability, sustainability, and responsibility, Germany wants to make the global economy more resilient, link climate and energy policies more closely, and support Africa with a view to heading off new migration waves.
On climate policy, no major breakthroughs are likely. Trump has already made the issue a thorny one by threatening to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
On the economy, the Germans want to improve the global financial architecture to help stabilize the world economy.
They also stress that the World Trade Organization (WTO) must remain central to global trade and see “a need for negotiation” to address a recent rise in protectionist measures.
Trump suggested during his election campaign that he could pull the US out of the WTO if its rules stopped him renegotiating US terms of trade to his satisfaction, though the WTO chief said last week he had no indication that the president-elected wanted to do so.
“Isolation will not be the solution,” said one G20 official.
On Africa, Germany wants the G20 to create more incentives for private investment on the continent, where a population boom risks a new wave of migrants to a Europe still trying to cope with an influx last year of refugees from the Middle East.
Germany will host a summit of G20 leaders in Hamburg on July 7-8 next year.