US stands apart as G-20 summit stumbles on trade, climate
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The U.S. has been blocking progress at the Group of 20 summit on fixing world trade rules, fighting climate change and tackling migration, according to European officials involved in the discussions.
The divisions among the world's leading economies were evident from the moment the Argentine president opened the summit Friday with a call for international cooperation to solve the planet's problems.
President Donald Trump sought to use the summit 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.
Security concerns also weighed on the two-day talks in Buenos Aires. Argentina's security minister said eight gasoline bombs were discovered in an area of the capital where a protest against the G-20 summit began in the afternoon.
Diplomats from the Group of 20 countries were haggling hard over a final summit statement, with deep divisions 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 U.S. apart. For example, a draft says 19 of the participants agree on the importance of upholding the Paris climate accord, but the U.S. doesn't.
The officials said the U.S. was also blocking any mention of migration in the final statement.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door discussions.
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."
The summit is meant to focus on issues such as labor, infrastructure, development, financial stability, climate sustainability and international commerce.
But as the gathering got underway, those themes seemed like afterthoughts, overshadowed by contentious matters from the U.S.-China trade dispute to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
European Council President Donald Tusk urged G-20 leaders to discuss "trade wars, the tragic situation in Syria and Yemen, and Russian aggression in Ukraine." He said the European Union is expected to extend sanctions on Moscow over its "totally unacceptable" seizure of Ukrainian ships and their crews near the Crimean Peninsula.
"Europe is united in its support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Tusk said, calling the standoff "a cause of great concern."
Russia and Ukraine have traded blame over the weekend ship incident — which Trump cited in canceling a much-awaited meeting with Putin at the G-20. Russia's foreign minister regretted the move, but said "love can't be forced."
Also looming large amid dozens of bilateral meetings in Buenos Aires: the gruesome slaying of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate and how the Saudi crown prince, who is alleged to have ordered the killing, is received by world leaders.
As soon as he arrived, the crown prince was confronted by French President Emmanuel Macron, who pressed him on the Khashoggi investigation and the Saudi-backed war in Yemen.
Bin Salman told Macron not to worry, but Macron countered, "I am worried."
Saudi Arabia has denied that bin Salman played a role, but some leaders may be cool toward him to avoid seeming to legitimize a man who U.S. intelligence agencies concluded ordered the killing. Trump's administration has made clear it does not want to torpedo the longstanding U.S. relationship with Riyadh, however.
It is the prince's first significant appearance overseas since the killing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia over the incident, is also in attendance.
Leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico, meanwhile, met in the 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 U.S. could face a tough road in the House of Representatives after Democrats won a majority in November midterm elections.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose six-year term ends Saturday, said the deal modernizes the trade framework, highlights a need for economic integration in North America and protects labor rights and the environment.
Trade agreements should "move along with the economy," Pena Nieto said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Trump to remove tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying they remain a major economic obstacle.
While Trump canceled his meeting with Putin, the U.S. president was still scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but analysts were not optimistic about prospects for a major breakthrough on the two countries' trade disputes a month before U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are set to ramp up.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was supposed to get in to Buenos Aires early Friday, but her arrival was delayed when her plane suffered a technical problem.
British Prime Minister Theresa May's attendance at the summit marked the first time a U.K. prime minister has visited Argentina's capital. The only other prime minister to visit the country was Tony Blair, who went to Puerto Iguazu in 2001. The two countries have long been at odds over the South Atlantic islands known as the Falklands in Britain and the Malvinas in Argentina.
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said the recent establishment of more flights to the disputed islands was a positive development.
Regarding May's visit, he said: "Dialogue must be maintained."
"We are not withdrawing our historic claim," he added. "The focus of this opportunity is in the reestablishment of trust."