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Trump agrees to anti-protectionist measures, but not climate change, at G20

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and United States President Donald Trump take part in a Women and Development event at the G20 summit Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
July 08, 2017 - 1:00 PM

HAMBURG - G20 leaders have agreed to fight protectionism but do not have unanimous agreement on action to fight climate change because of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered a brief update on negotiations Saturday, telling Canadian media all G20 countries — including the United States — "stand united in opposition to protectionism."

"That will be a positive outcome for this meeting," said Morneau.

"We all recognize the importance of trade to our economies, the importance of trade to growth and, you know, the difficulties protectionism presents. That's a subject that has reached consensus."

A leaked copy of the trade section reads: "We will keep markets open, noting the importance of reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks."

It also says the G20 will "fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices and recognize the rule of legitimate trade defence instruments in this regard."

That latter line gives countries a way to skirt their commitments against protectionism, including through such actions as Trump's softwood lumber tariffs currently affecting the Canadian lumber industry.

Trump's signature on the trade section was not easy to achieve as he clung to his America First policies. One report said French President Emmanuel Macron pushed Trump on the issue at a leaders' working luncheon Thursday, pointing out Trump's obsession with trade deficits the U.S. has with individual countries doesn't make sense in a world where trade is global.

One of the sticking points has been over steel. Trump has threatened a 20 per cent import tax on foreign steel that could have a significant economic impact on a number of G20 countries, including China, Germany and Canada.

Merkel pushed Friday for a global agreement on steel production and the G20 communique includes a pledge to combat excess steel supplies.

The U.S. Commerce Department was initially supposed to announce in June whether it would introduce tariffs or quotas or both on steel imports citing national security, however it is still considering its decision.

The U.S. focus on this is mostly on China, but Canada's steel industry exports more than half its production to the U.S. and any import tariffs would hurt.

Morneau said the steel talks have "been an important backdrop to this G20."

"In my estimation those have been productive discussions where we have talked about the importance of having a trading environment that works for all economies," said Morneau.

"We've had very productive discussions with the Americans on the subject of steel and those discussions continue," he said.

Trump was also offside on climate change language, which was no surprise to anyone.

Much as he was isolated on climate change at the G7 leaders meeting in Italy in May, he appears to be a 19 against one figure on the three paragraphs about climate change in the communique.

The focus of the communique is to continue to implement the Paris agreement on climate change, which commits the world to trying to keep the globe from warming more than two degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was adamant the climate change section would be in the communique and her political gamble to get all G20 nations but the U.S. in her corner appears to have paid off.

Tom Burke, chairman of the British environmental think tank E3G called out Trump for standing alone on the issue once again.

"Trump has lost another collision between fantasy and reality," Burke said in a statement. "No other global leader shares his fantasy that climate change is a hoax."

There had been some hope Trudeau's more measured relationship with Trump could help get the U.S. leader to be more agreeable to G20 initiatives.

The two did not have a bilateral meeting here, but did speak privately several times throughout the various sessions and events.

Trudeau doesn't share much in common philosophically with Trump but has said he understands the anger and the disappointment of disaffected people that helped get Trump elected.

The relationship developing between Trump and Trudeau was on full display at the G20 including at a World Bank event to finance women entrepreneurs in developing nations.

"We have a great neighbour in Canada and Justin is doing a spectacular job in Canada," Trump gushed at the beginning of his speech. "Everybody loves him and they love him for a reason so congratulations on the job you're doing."

Canada committed $20 million and the United States $50 million to the World Bank's Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.

All of this takes place against a backdrop of violent protest in Hamburg. More than 100,000 protesters took to the streets to criticize the G20, many arguing it is arrogant for 20 nations to make decisions for the rest of the world and that globalization hurts the poorest people in the world the most.

Most of them demonstrated peacefully but those who did not wreaked havoc. Fires burned in a number of locations in the city overnight Friday, stores were looted and cars torched.

The area around the G20 summit site was a disaster with smashed store fronts and glass littering the streets.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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