Leaders at the Group of 20 summit are scrambling to salvage something from their meeting as they grapple with deep divisions over key issues and disruptions from thousands of protesters.
Violent protests broke out across Hamburg throughout the day on Friday causing so much havoc at times that some official motorcades had to be diverted, and U.S. President Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, was forced to miss some events for spouses. Police say that 196 officers have been injured in clashes with protesters so far and 60 people have been sent to the hospital. The government has brought in 200 extra police to bolster the ranks of 15,000 officers already in place. By nightfall, parts of Hamburg were in lockdown, with several subway stations closed and police trucks blocking access to large sections of the city.
Inside the trade centre, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spent most of Friday trying to find a consensus on the summit’s major issues of trade and climate change. “There are of course millions of people following us with their concerns, their fears and their needs, who hope that we can make a contribution to solving the problems,” Ms. Merkel told the leaders as she opened the meeting.
“We all know the big global challenges, and we know that time is pressing,” she added. “So solutions can only be found if we are prepared to compromise … without, and I say this clearly, bending ourselves too much out of shape. We can of course also name differences.”
Before the meeting even began on Friday morning, some leaders were pressing Mr. Trump to change his mind on the Paris agreement, which he has said the U.S. will not ratify unless it is renegotiated. “The Paris agreement on climate change is an important consensus that doesn’t come easily and must not be given up easily,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said after a meeting of leaders from the so called BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China. His comments came as the group issued a statement calling on the G20 to push for implementation of the accord.
“We are not renegotiating the Paris agreement, that stays, but I want to see the U.S. looking for ways to rejoin it,” added British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played a careful balancing act during the meetings, backing support for the Paris accord but not pushing Mr. Trump to change his mind. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada has already expressed its disappointment about Mr. Trump’s decision and she added that the U.S. position is a reality the G20 will have to accept.
“That is the choice of the democratically elected government of the United States,” Ms. Freeland told reporters. “And we need to accept that that is the choice the United States has made, even as we press ahead with our own clear and sovereign policy working energetically together with partners who share our view on Paris.”
She added that Mr. Trudeau will still play a key role in working as a kind of intermediary between Mr. Trump and the other G20 leaders. “Canada knows the United States well and Americans know us well, too,” she said. “And so of course at a meeting like this, like the G20, one of the things we do is talk a lot to the Americans, and our relationship with Europe is stronger than it’s ever been, as well. It is certainly the case that Canada is taking a leadership role here.”
Mr. Trudeau spent part of the day in individual meetings with Ms. Merkel, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron. “We will talk about climate and the mutual engagement we need to defend. Especially when some people are doubting it,” Mr. Macron said before the two leaders met.
Mr. Trudeau also pushed the other leaders to back a commitment not to pay ransom in cases of kidnapping. Canadian officials said the pledge had been included in drafts of the final communiqué because of Mr. Trudeau’s insistence. Several world leaders have called on countries not to pay ransoms, fearing it only fuels kidnapping and provides funding for terrorists. The G20 has addressed the issue before but not every member state has agreed to a complete ban.
It’s not clear if any of the pressure and comments about the Paris accord got through to Mr. Trump. He skipped the leaders’ discussion on climate change because of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Former Canadian diplomat Tom Bernes said he remains doubtful the leaders will reach any consensus on the major issues when they release the final communiqué on Saturday. “It’s still a crap shoot,” said Mr. Bernes, a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont.
He said the message from Ms. Merkel to the leaders is if “you bend over too far and paper over differences, you’re going to break the G20 as a multilateral institution. It’s better to reflect our differences and then let’s see how we can work together in the future.”
John Kirton, director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto, said he expects the leaders will agree to a communiqué “that will be fairly general and incomplete and many of the things that key participants would want will not be in there.”
He added that even if the summit fails to come to any agreement, the G20 is still relevant. “It’s getting more effective summit by summit,” he said. “I think it will be more a matter of Trump learning that he needs to be an even more consensus-oriented member of the club to get what he wants done back home in the United States.”
Friday night, the G20 leaders took a break from their meetings to attend a concert in the city’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall. As musicians played Beethoven and other classics, police were using tear gas and water cannons on protesters outside.Report Typo/Error