Trump Takes Spotlight at G-20 Summit
The G-20 summit of the world’s richest economies was on its final day Saturday against a backdrop of intensifying protests and with U.S. President Donald Trump taking center stage.
The U.S. leader held a series of meetings on the sidelines with the leaders of Britain, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, and China.
Trump also took part in a discussion on partnering with Africa on migration and health and joined leaders for a session on women entrepreneurs, where he said the United States would pledge $50 million to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, a World Bank-led effort championed by his daughter, Ivanka.
At the women entrepreneurs finance event, the U.S. president offered a conciliatory gesture to the summit’s host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, perhaps the most vocal critic among G-20 leaders of Trump’s policies on trade and climate.
Words of praise for Merkel
Trump praised Merkel for the job her country has done in hosting the summit despite unrelenting anti-capitalist protests that escalated in Hamburg Saturday and included car burnings and the looting of businesses.
“It’s been really incredible the way things have been handled and nothing’s easy, but so professionally, without much interruption despite quite a few people and they seem to follow your G-20s around,” President Trump told Merkel. “But you have been amazing and you have done a fantastic job and thank you very much, chancellor. Bravo,” the U.S. leader said.
German officials expected 100,000 protesters on the streets of Hamburg Saturday.
Trump’s last meeting of the day was expected to be his most difficult at the two day summit, when he was to touch on thorny issues of North Korea and Chinese steel dumping with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump has criticized the Chinese leadership for failing to use its influence on the otherwise isolated North and getting it to stop its missile tests.
But it was Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier that made headlines at the two-day summit. The two men had a visibly warm encounter that went for more than two hours – far longer than expected to the point where Trump had to push a previously scheduled meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May to Saturday.
‘Despite the friendly tone of Trump’s meeting with Putin Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. leader had pressed Putin repeatedly on allegations that Russia meddled in U.S. elections last year.
WATCH: Trump-Putin Meeting
The Russians denied any interference in the U.S. electoral process.
“President Trump said that he heard firm assertions from President Putin that it is not true and that Russian authorities have not meddled in these elections and that [Trump] said that he accepts these assertions. That’s it,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
U.S. officials have not confirmed Lavrov’s characterization of Trump’s response to Putin.
The meeting is likely to bring returns for Putin at home. “Trump is still Russia’s hope,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow and chair of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “He is still a person who can turn the global agenda in Russia’s favor and Russia will attempt to use that – Trump’s emotional side.”
Whether the meeting represents similar gains for Trump remains a question.
The U.S. leader appeared to focus entirely on the relationships and issues he values and not concentrate on the issues that are of less interest to him. During the summit he made no significant mention of climate change, a topic that Merkel and others said they would prioritize in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.
At his session with the British prime minister, Trump described his sit-down with Putin as “a tremendous meeting.”
Trump and May talked about their post-Brexit relations, an especially significant theme at a time when Trump’s “America First” policy and Britain’s decision to break from the EU give the two historic allies even more reason to bond.
“There is no country that could possibly be closer than our countries and for a long time,” Trump said. “We’re working on a trade deal that will be a very, very big deal, very powerful deal, great for both countries, and I think we’ll have that done very, very quickly.