By Joe Montero
As so many predicted, Donald Trump and the message he took to the Group of 20 summit at Hamburg received an icy reception.
On every major issue, the United States was left isolated.
Despite two days of photo shoot back slapping and smiles, the ambition to recruit support for the American position on North Korea failed. China and Russia took hold of the initiative, with their peace based on mutual disarmament and easing of sanctions position.
The differences became most marked on trade, migration and global warming. This is important because the G20 represents the world’s leading economies and therefore carries as great deal of global political influence.
American isolation marks the departure from an era, where American supremacy has been the rule since the end of World War Two, as the superpower succumbs to growing economic weakness, reaction against its increasing reliance of force as its assertiveness is also a major factor behind the differences.Europe, under the leadership of Germany, ans secondly France, does not want to play second fiddle to American interests and is increasingly positioning itself as a major competitor.
The best illustration of this now, are the differences between Germany’s chancellor Angle Merkel and Donald Trump that has become evident over recent months. It was Merkel that took the lead in Hamburg. At a news conference as well as openly saying she “deplores,” the American decision to walk away, she said “We as Europeans have to take our fate into our own hands”. While she was specifically referring to climate warming, it really covered the tone over gulf that has opened over all the key issues.
Representing France, the newly elected president Emmanuel Macron, lined up with Merkel. “The world has never been so divided,” he said. If this is not drawing a line in the sand, what is?
Trump is now due in Paris and is likely to find it a bit of a challenge.
Even with the post summit language of consensus over the final resolution, it remains that the Trump demand to punish nations for what he sees as unfair trade practices, did not get up. This is not surprising, given that the targets are China and Europe.
Washington has been trying to impose open access for American business interests, while at the same time, denying challengers entry into the American economy.
Many nations are genuinely worried that Washington may launch harmful trade wars.
Referring to this last Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “We will respond with countermeasures if need be, hoping that this is not actually necessary”.
In this context, a resolution expressing support for open markets and opposition to protectionism is hardly a victory for the American position. It is vague, commits to nothing, yet opens to, shall we say, infinite flexibility in its application. This is a non-statement, geared to save face, rather than offer anything.
On migration and refugees, the hard line of the United states in the Trump era, won support from only the United Kingdom and Italy. Everyone else called for a more humane policy.
But it is on the matter of global warming where the differences were most evident.
An agreement was made to move forward without the participation of the United States, which has abandoned a pledge made last year at the Paris Climate Agreement, to bring greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
The other 19 members of the group broke explicitly with the American position in their embrace of the Paris deal and some of them have moved further than the limited protocols achieved in Paris.
It remains that the United States has made the greatest contribution to the threat of carbon emissions and its failure to act is a setback. Chances are that this will lead to ongoing diplomatic repercussions, further political isolation and the potential for economic sanctions against the United States. Global warming is emerging as a source of political tension that may eventuate to add to political instability.
while the leaders were closeted behind closed walls,huge protests took place outside. They were met with a show of force that has reached a new level against up to 100,000 local citizens and others who were there to express their collective opinion on the summit, Donald Trump, neoliberalism and other issues. Blaming a between one and two thousand anarchists of causing trouble, was used as a cover to turn water cannons, teargas and capsicum spray onto everyone.
Turning Hamburg into something resembling a city under military occupation,did not go unnoticed. There was the “ring of steel” around the summit, extending to roadblocks and high security zones. More than 20,000 police were involved, many of them heavily armed. Street patrols were frequent and many backed by drones and the latest surveillance technology. Helicopters permanently “parked” in the clouds, become a background sound.
Much more was going on here than dealing with a few anarchists.
Germany is experiencing a groundswell of opinion that wants a change in economic and political direction. Merkel and her government are out of touch with this and are now seen to be trying to impose control through its own heavy handed means. It has not gone down too well, not only in Germany, but across Europe.