Mon, Dec 03, 2018 - Page 5 News List

G20 agrees on trade, migration, not climate

WASHINGTON ALONE:EU officials said the US was the main holdout on nearly every issue in the summit communique, but was the only one not to reaffirm the Paris accord


Leaders of the world’s top economies on Saturday agreed to repair the global trading system as they closed a G20 summit that saw US President Donald Trump’s administration at odds with many allies over the Paris accord on climate change and issues like migration.

The joint statement signed by all 20 member nations said 19 of them reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate accord, with the US, the lone holdout.

The official communique acknowledged flaws in global commerce and called for reforming the WTO, but it did not mention the word “protectionism” after negotiators said that had met resistance from the US.

Applause broke out in the convention center hall as the leaders signed off on the statement at the end of the two-day summit.

The non-binding agreement was reached after marathon talks by diplomats stretched overnight and into daylight, amid deep divisions between member nations.

EU officials said the US was the main holdout on nearly every issue. Trump has criticized the WTO and taken aggressive trade policies targeting China and the EU.

However, China also pushed back in talks on steel, South Africa objected to language on trade, Australia did not want the statement to be too soft on migration and Turkey worried it would push too far on climate change, the officials said.

A senior White House official said the statement meets many US objectives and stressed that it includes language about WTO reform. The official also noted other elements such as language on workforce development and women’s economic development and a commitment by China to doing infrastructure financing on “transparent terms.”

According to the official, the unusual language on climate was necessary for Washington to sign on, and Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia had appeared sympathetic to the US position, but ultimately stayed with the other countries.

The final language of the statement says, regarding climate, that 19 nations that are signatories to the Paris accord reiterate their commitment to it while the US reiterates its decision to withdraw.

It also notes a recent UN report that warned damage from global warming will be much worse than previously feared, and expresses support for the UN climate meeting in Poland that opened yesterday.

The statement said the 20 countries support multilateral trade, but acknowledge that the current system does not work and needs fixing, via “the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning.”

On migration, European officials said the US negotiator said too much talk about it would have been a “deal-breaker” for Trump.

So they came up with “minimalist” language that acknowledges growing migrant flows and the importance of shared efforts to support refugees and solve the problems that drive them to flee.

The statement also shows a commitment to a “rules-based international order,” despite Trump’s rejection of many of those rules.

Thomas Bernes of the Canada-based Centre for International Governance Innovation, who has held leading roles with the IMF and the World Bank, said the G20 had “veered all over the road” at the summit and failed to truly fix trade.

The US was out of step on migration and climate change and blocked meaningful agreement on those issues, he added.

“Instead, leaders buried their differences in obscure language and dropped language to fight protectionism, which had been included in every G20 communique since the leaders’ first summit,” he said. “This is clearly a retrograde step forced by United States intransigence.”

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