June 30, 2017
TSC IntelBrief: The U.S. Versus the G-20
• On July 7, President Trump will attend the meeting of the Group of 20 in Hamburg, Germany, with unprecedented tensions between members.
• The U.S. administration’s policy of disdaining multilateral approaches to global problems, and dismissing climate change, are at odds with much of the group.
• There is now a distinct drift between the E.U. members of the G-20 and the U.S.
• The meeting will be the first between President Trump and Russian President Putin, as investigations about Russian interference escalate
The growing chasm between the United States and the European Union (E.U.), and other countries around the world pushing for multilateral approaches to large-scale challenges, is more than just rhetoric; there are very real policy differences concerning how to approach several ongoing – and potential – international crises. This isn’t entirely new. The U.S. has often acted unilaterally, and will likely continue to do so on issues that are of serious concern to the global community: climate change, the refugee crisis, international trade agreements, persistent armed conflicts, and more.
The Group of 20 (G-20) was formed to address global financial issues that require multilateral, consensus-based solutions. The members of the G-20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the U.K., the U.S., and the E.U. Individual relations between the U.S. and several G-20 members are strained, and trending worse, to include China, Germany, France, the U.K., the E.U., Mexico, and Russia, especially as the Trump administration has been open about its disdain for most multilateral organizations.
President Trump will make his second foreign trip when he attends the annual meeting of the G-20, to begin on July 7 in Hamburg, Germany. There he will face an E.U. led by German Chancellor Merkel that is determined to avoid a repeat of several disastrous meetings, both during President Trump’s first visit to Europe and Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Washington in May. The result of those first meetings were public statements by Chancellor Merkel that the E.U. could no longer consider the U.S. a reliable ally, a pronounced shift that in normal political times would have been earth shattering, especially concerning what it could mean for military and geopolitical alliances.
Since then, U.S. relations with the E.U., and with some of the other G-20 countries, specifically China, have deteriorated. Speaking in Berlin, Chancellor Merkel said the Paris climate accords, which the U.S. walked away from, would happen without U.S. involvement. She added that the E.U. “cannot and will not wait until every last person in the world can be convinced of climate change by scientific evidence,” a pointed reference to the U.S. administration’s decision that it must wait until the science ‘is more settled’ on the matter. Climate change is not the only contentious issue between the U.S. and many of the G-20; the new transactional – as opposed to trust-based – and point-to-point bilateral approach of the U.S. towards trade and global armed conflicts are others.
The upcoming meeting might accelerate the drift between the U.S. and the global organizations that it used to lead, formally or informally. The U.S. administration’s preference for aggressive statements, contradictory stances, and bizarre presidential tweets over diplomatic affairs might appeal to its domestic constituents, but it is truly corrosive at an international level. The longer the disdain for international organizations – to include, above all, the United Nations – the more damage will be done not simply to some artificial notion of international ‘standing,’ but to the U.S.’s ability to effectively work with countries to address global problems. When the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, claimed that in her dealings with 192 countries, “the overwhelming feeling is that we are unpredictable; they don’t know exactly what we are going to do,” she meant this as a good thing for the U.S. The reaction among the many countries that the U.S. calls allies is quite different, however.
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