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G20 enters the last day to work on bridging divisions

PTI/Agencies, New Delhi
01/12/2018   0 Comments

The Group of 20 summit enters its crucial second and final day Saturday with hours left for diplomats to bridge divisions on major issues including world trade, climate change and tackling migration. The day will also see a highly anticipated meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose nations have been embroiled in an escalating trade war with new U.S. tariffs on China goods set to take effect a month from now. Trump sought to use the gathering to make his own trade deals. Meanwhile, two men under heavy criticism from the West lately Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to seek refuge in each other, bonding with a tough-guy hand grab as the leaders sat down around a huge round table for talks. Diplomats from the G-20 countries were haggling hard over a final joint statement, with disagreement over what language to use on the Paris climate accord and the World Trade Organization.

Two European officials involved in the discussions said the U.S. was stymieing progress on both. So an unorthodox solution emerged: Because of resistance from the Trump administration, an official in the French president's office said the statement may have language that sets the US apart. For example, a draft says 19 of the participants agree on the importance of upholding the Paris climate accord, but the US doesn't. The officials said the US was also blocking any mention of migration in the final statement. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door discussions. Asked about the European concerns, a U.S. official said progress was being made on the joint statement and the White House was "optimistic" about the document as a whole. Laura Jaitman, the Argentine Treasury official shepherding the G-20's financing talks, said leaders have made progress on finance and trade and was hopeful a joint statement would be possible.

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said trade talks were moving forward and nations were continuing to work on climate change wording. Argentine President Mauricio Macri kicked off the summit by acknowledging divisions within the G-20 while urging world leaders to have a "sense of urgency" and take actions "based on shared interests." Leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico, meanwhile, met Friday morning to sign a trade deal replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement that was struck following months of tough negotiations that analysts say left a bitter taste among the partners. Trump called the pact a "model agreement that changes the trade landscape forever." It must still be ratified by lawmakers in all three countries, and passage in the US could face a tough road in the House of Representatives after Democrats won a majority in November midterm elections. While Trump canceled his meeting with Putin, the US president was still scheduled to meet with China's Xi, but analysts were not optimistic about prospects for a major breakthrough on their countries' trade disputes a month before US tariffs on Chinese goods are set to ramp up.

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