G20 Summit: Welcome to Hell
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel , Photo by 360b, Shutterstock.
World leaders of the G20 or Group of Twenty—a global forum for the governments of the 20 major economies—are meeting in Hamburg, Germany on 7 and 8 July. This is the twelfth G20 summit of the heads of state and government where leading industrialised and emerging market economies will meet to discuss the state of the world economy and financial markets, terrorism, global challenges, migration and refugee flows, climate change and pandemics.
Theresa May and her husband Phillip, along with Chancellor Phillip Hammond, arrived in Hamburg yesterday to attend today’s meeting. The British Prime Minister would attempt to encourage Trump to change his position on the Paris agreement. Talking to the BBC, May said: "We are not renegotiating the Paris agreement, that stays, but I want to see the U.S. looking for ways to rejoin it.”
Earlier today, the much-anticipated meeting and handshake of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin took place under the calculating eyes of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Putin and Trump will meet again later this afternoon in an hour-long meeting to discuss a series of issues relating to foreign policy, the war in Syria and the situation in Ukraine. The discussion between a former TV personality and a former KGB agent will be overshadowed by the investigations about Russia’s meddling in the US presidential elections.
Other encounters that will be equally important are those between Trump and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the one between The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump and Xi have differing opinions on North Korea, trade, arms sales and territorial waters. Relations between Ankara and Berlin are cold due to the failed Turkish coup last year, human rights’ violations and access to an air base in Turkey.
In a joint press conference, the EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker have warned Trump against protectionism and that they would be willing “to react immediately and adequately” if Trump introduces tariffs on European steel imports.
Who and what is the G20?
The Group of Twenty is the central forum for global discussion and cooperation on economic and financial issues. The decisions that the G20 make are influential and help shape national and multinational developments. The G20 includes the EU and the following 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (US).
Which are the issues?
The G20 leaders focus their discussions on global economic growth, international trade and financial market regulation. They want to find ways to achieve strong global economic growth and to increase employment. Most issues relate to economic questions, such as climate change, development policy, the labour market and more recently refugee policy issues and counter-terrorism. The priorities of this year’s G20 summit are summarised in a 13-page document. The agenda will purse three aims: “building resilience, improving sustainability and assuming responsibility.”
Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin for the first time
Ahead of their meeting, Trump gave a speech in Warsaw on Thursday calling Russia to “join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defence of civilization itself.” Under the watchful eyes of Europe and the rest of the world, Trump will have to take a hard position with Putin, in the light of Russia’s interference in the US presidential elections and the widespread anti-Russian attitudes in the US Senate and the media. Giving a press conference in Poland he said that yes, there was interference, but Russia might not be the culprit: “I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries, and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.” Despite that many US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia did interfere in the US presidential election, Trump is avoiding to blame Russia, while pointing the finger to others. However, there is no evidence of other countries interfering.
Trump, who will be accompanied by the US Secretary Rex Tillerson, is facing pressure by top Democrats from intelligence, armed and foreign relation committees to confront Putin about Moscow’s interference.
Putin hopes that the meeting with Trump will inaugurate a new era of cooperation against terrorism and “a working dialogue, which is probably vital for all the world in terms of improving efficiency in resolving a critical mass of conflicts and problems.”
According to a Moscow Times’ article—where Russian experts gave their advice on how Putin should deal with the American president—Putin should try and establish a personal contact with Trump and clarify that Russia isn’t the US’s enemy. While, it is said, that Trump will be concerned with international trade and economic issues during the summit, and that Russia is not a major player, Putin should be open to a concrete discussion about national interests.
Protests: “Welcome to Hell”
Anti-capitalist and anarchist protesters greeted world leaders arriving at the G20 meeting with the slogan “Welcome to Hell.” The G20 Welcome to Hell is an “autonomous and anti-capitalist alliance against the G20-summit in Hamburg.” Today the alliance is organising an international anti-capitalist demonstration of the radical left against the G20, to protest against the “old and new authorities of capitalism,” and oppose “oppression, exploitation and exclusion with collectivity and solidarity.”
According to the G20 Welcome to hell website, “When the pieces of global politics are picked up after the summit on 9 July, capitalism and exploitation will still exist. At the end of the day, there will be final statements and success-oriented resumes of the assembled bodies politic and the public. Crises and wars are part of the capitalist system, likewise protest and scandals are part of the summit orchestration. It’s up to us to open a new page and new resistance perspectives.”
Thursday’s violent marches of 12,000 protesters have been followed by Friday’s smaller demonstrations. German police used water cannon and pepper spray to disperse the protesters, while other demonstrators, dressed as clowns, taunted police officers. Cars were burned and shops were damaged, with some being injured. 100,000 protesters are expected to turn out during the two days. For the protesters, if these powerful countries can wage war, cause global warming and worldwide exploitation while standing in Hamburg in their clean suits, then the only way to counteract this meaningfully is to disrupt the summit. As one protested said, "I’m sure we can't stop all these leaders from meeting but if we can stop them from getting their food or catering shortly we've achieved something."