What to Expect from the G20 Summit
Leaders of the 19 top industrialized and emerging market economies (plus the EU) will meet tomorrow in Hamburg for the annual G20 Summit. For a forum meant to foster economic and financial policy cooperation with an eye to spreading the benefits of globalization and connectivity, it is a year of particularly low expectations. One area of high expectations, especially in Warsaw, however, is President Trump’s visit to Poland on his way to Hamburg — where security is expected to be the topic.
Angela Merkel’s government has an agenda that encompasses economic, sustainability, and security issues. Given that these priorities including trade and finance, climate and energy, and migration and refugee flows — a lack of significant agreement seems predetermined. Nonetheless, in a world of receding U.S. leadership and increasing instability, the G20’s role as the forum to help maintain multilateral cooperation is more crucial than ever — even if this year’s communique might not demonstrate much.
Five GMF experts give their take on what to watch at the Warsaw visit and the year’s G20, from NATO and migration to the role of Russia and China.
-Rachel Tausendfreund, Editorial Director
A Confident Merkel Plays Host
After nearly 12 years in office, the international stage is no longer terra incognita for Angela Merkel. Cameras will be focused on President Trump's every move during the G20 but will then pan to Chancellor Merkel for her reaction as she plays host in Hamburg. She has marked her territory and has not been shy in letting the new U.S. administration know what she considers out-of-bounds. President Trump received a congratulatory letter from Chancellor Merkel after the election that predicated partnership based on shared values, after the NATO summit in May she mused during a campaign rally in a beer tent about Europe shaping its own destiny and not relying on others, and most recently in an address to the German parliament she criticized adherents of protectionism and isolationism.
Chancellor Merkel is a seasoned politician, gone are the days when her arms would tense as the U.S. president attempted to give a back massage at the conference table. Nearly a decade later, when Germany hosted the G7 in the Bavarian Alps, many remember the iconic image of her with arms raised in confidence as U.S. President Obama sat on a bench and listened intently. According to Pew Research a median of 22 percent in a 37 country survey have confidence that President Trump will do the right thing in world affairs, leaving Chancellor Merkel with the leadership mantle of forging cooperation among nations with regard to global issues such as climate change.
-Sudha David-Wilp, Deputy Director of GMF's Berlin office and Senior Translatlantic Fellow
Warsaw Visit Takes All the Focus from Hamburg
In Poland, everyone is focused on the prelude to the G20 meeting. The visit of President Trump to Warsaw ahead the G20 summit is an opportunity to reset the narrative on NATO and the transatlantic relationship after a controversial visit to Brussels and Taormina last month. President Trump will deliver in Warsaw a major policy speech that according to National Security Advisor General McMaster will address the U.S. commitment to European security as well as outline the vision for the transatlantic relationship under the Trump administration. There is a very clear expectation — which is likely to pan out this time — that the U.S. President will clearly commit himself to Article 5. Warsaw is indeed a very good place to do that, given Poland’s contribution to the Alliance’s defense, meeting the 2 percent of GDP spending goal, and the very significant U.S. military presence here.
The president will also meet with his Polish host, President Duda and several key ministers. The bilateral discussion will focus on strengthening the military cooperation, improving economic ties, as well as establishing a closer energy links given the appetite in the region for greater LNG imports from the U.S. that can rival the natural gas flows from Russia. President Trump will also join the summit of the Three Seas Initiative — that brings leaders of the 12 leaders between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Sea to strengthen energy and infrastructure connections along the north-south axes within the group.
The expectations for the visit are very high in Warsaw. But the visit is not without risks. The main question is whether what President Trump says in Warsaw is seen as unifying or divisive for the Alliance as a whole. Everyone here hopes for a strong pro-NATO and pro-EU speech with a clear reaffirmation of commitment to the Article V. The worries here focus on the question whether President’s speech brings back the Rumsfeldian narrative of “old Europe and new Europe.”
-Michal Baranowski, Director of GMF's Warsaw office
China as Champion?
In Hamburg, Chinese President Xi will continue to present China as a champion of free trade and a staunch supporter of global governance mechanisms, walking the fine line of assuring the Europeans without directly confronting the United States on the issues. But unlike at Davos earlier this year, the presence of Donald Trump will divert most of the media attention from Xi. The growing rift among China, Europe, and the United States on trade, finance, development, and climate change will prevent any substantial agreement in these areas.
The latest intercontinental ballistic missile test by the North Korean regime just days before the high-level meeting could hijack the agenda. The potential of the G20 in this area was highlighted in the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bonn, which allowed for conversations about North Korea in various bilateral meetings and a U.S.–Japan–Korea trilateral taking place at its sidelines. The G20 meeting could be used to send a clear signal of condemnation toward North Korea. With limited expectations in the primary areas of G20 concern, this could be a tangible deliverable.
-Janka Oertel, Transatlantic Fellow
The Pro-Wrestler Meets the Judo Black Belt
Donald Trump’s second visit to Europe can be summed up by one word: Putin. The two leaders see the world in similar zero-sum terms, and are most comfortable leading through intimidation and misdirection. Yet they draw on different strategies of hand-to-hand combat.
Trump loves American professional wrestling — with its manufactured drama and over-the-top spectacle — and it is tempting to see his first meeting with the Russian leader as the diplomatic version of a Wrestlemania cage match (for European readers, Google it). Putin, on the other hand, takes great pride in his black belt in another kind of martial art: judo. While Trump pro-wrestling approach is showy, bombastic and impulsive, Putin thrives on judo’s discipline and mental toughness, where a core technique is to keep an opponent off-balance and exploit his weakness. How these contrasting styles of machismo interact will be the most closely watched part of Trump’s trip — and will likely be the defining feature of their relationship moving forward.
For this first meeting, I expect a split-decision: Putin will offer some cooperation on ISIS and willingness to discuss a settlement in Ukraine, and Trump will agree to keep talking. Both sides will announce modest progress, and will name special envoys to do the follow-up. But for the future, there is reason to worry. Because everyone knows pro-wrestling is fake — it is just a show to entertain the cheering crowd. Judo is real — and the goal is to take down your opponent and win.
-Derek Chollet, Executive Vice President and Senior Advisor for Security and Defense Policy
The Kremlin is Hoping for a Sign
As Russia’s membership in G7 is suspended, the Kremlin utilizes G20 to promote its domestic agenda: its self-imposed role as a world power and contribution to peacemaking in Syria and Ukraine. Putin will hold meetings with eleven G20 members (and discuss Ukraine with Merkel and Macron); all of which are already overshadowed by the first face-to-face encounter with Trump. It was allegedly Moscow to pressure the White House for months to turn a long speculated informal “pull-aside” into a bilat. There is no formal agenda as confirmed by the U.S. side; the two presidents are likely to talk about Syria, arms control, where it is possibly to restore some cooperation. At the same time, both sides voice their strong skepticism as for the effectiveness of the meeting. Neither side can make concessions: Trump, in view of the strong opposition to it at home as well as ongoing investigation of Russia’s meddling in U.S. politics; Putin, not to show any weakness domestically before presidential elections in Russia early next year.
While the Kremlin exalts normalized relations with the United States as of “vital importance for the whole world,” Putin’s highest hope for G20 is a sign of the Trump administration that it is committed to have a working relationship.
The Need for Long-Term Engagement with Africa on Migration
Under the G20 presidency, Germany has put a strong focus on Africa embodied in the “compact with Africa” – a country specific plan to spur private investment with African countries. This focus on Africa is no surprise given the high numbers of asylum seekers and migrants that Germany saw in 2015. The unspoken thinking behind the “compact with Africa,” similarly to Germany’s development minister Gerd Müllers current “Marshall Plan with Africa,” is as simple as it is flawed: Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050, from currently 1.2 billion to 2.5 billion. It is therefore of highest importance to invest in and build up African economies so that they can provide for livelihoods and jobs at home, making migration to Europe an option, not a necessity. It is right to open up more investment opportunities and create jobs. But it misses two points: one, that migration is actually a driver of development through remittances and diaspora engagement. Secondly, according to the migration hump theory, more development will not decrease the number of people moving in the immediate future, as increasing household income provides more people with the needed resources to migrate. Migration will eventually level off once when economic opportunities are stable. It needs to be clear to all G20 members that the engagement with African countries and economies must be a long-term commitment. Every G20 agenda over the coming decades should focus on investments and fairer trade deals, access to education, support for good governance and policies to mitigate global warming.
-Astrid Ziebarth, Senior Migration Fellow
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.