The G20 Summit takes place Friday and Saturday in Hamburg, Germany. Here's a quick guide to the summit, its main players, and the key issues they face.
What is the G20?
The G20 is an annual meeting of the government leaders and central bank governors of 19 major economies and the European Union. The main topic is, in theory, the financial stability of the global economy, but discussion tends to go a lot wider than that. It's also a global party, its arrival heralded each year by streets filled with colourful anti-capitalist protests, and by the timeless pageantry of police water cannons and tear gas.
Is Canada a member of the G20?
We like to think so.
Who else is a member?
The United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, France, China, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia are among the most notable. The membership makes up about 85 per cent of global gross domestic product, and two-thirds of the population. It's a small enough group to make meetings manageable, and large enough not to reinforce the suspicion that the world is controlled from Washington and Brussels. Notable absences include Pakistan, Spain and the entire continent of Africa, other than South Africa.
So Donald Trump is there?
That's not a question.
Sorry. What are the key issues this year?
The biggest issue is the U.S. role in the global economy and security system – you know, the one it built and used to lead. President Trump's rhetoric has been aggressively protectionist since taking office; he's even mulled curbing steel imports from the host country, Germany. He's especially hostile toward free-trade agreements. In his view, they hurt American workers by transferring jobs to low-wage jurisdictions, such as fellow G20 countries Mexico and China, and only benefit the richest one per cent of the population, a.k.a. "the global elite."
It sounds like Mr. Trump has more in common with the protesters outside the summit than the leaders on the inside.
Who's writing this editorial?
Sorry. Any other issues?
Mr. Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, putting him at odds with the European members especially. His anti-Muslim immigration policies are also an irritant to his European allies. This is especially problematic for Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, as she negotiates rising anti-Muslim sentiment in her country caused by the more than one million migrants who have come to Germany since the Syrian war started.
It sounds like everything is about Donald Trump.
Get used to it. G20 summits are always dominated by the world leader with the most radical agenda and/or the biggest economy. Mr. Trump is both.
What are the other leaders hoping to accomplish?
Many of them want to save the Paris climate accord, but it will be an uphill battle. Without the U.S., the deal is less attractive to smaller countries. As well, some countries may feel there is nothing to gain from isolating the U.S. on the issue. Ms. Merkel, new French president Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will likely push hard for the Paris deal – in fact, they may push all the harder so as to be seen to be pushing against Mr. Trump. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Turkey, are less enthusiastic.
Ms. Merkel also hopes to get Africa on the agenda, since a large portion of the refugee flow comes from economically and politically troubled North African countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin will be meeting with Mr. Trump, a much-anticipated event at which the two will either discuss Syria, Ukraine and Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, or will plot and laugh maniacally, depending on your political leanings. Meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau will continue his push to be the global leader with the coolest socks.
Surely Mr. Trudeau has more important things at stake.
Canada is looking awfully good these days. Mr. Trump has created a vacuum by pulling back from America's traditional leadership role. Others either can't pick up the slack (the EU), or are doing so aggressively (Russia, China), with less-than-happy consequences.
Mr. Trudeau has positioned himself on the international stage as a sunny cheerleader for the values that Mr. Trump has abandoned. He wants to brand himself as the anti-Trump. Guess what? So do many of his G20 counterparts, from Ms. Merkel to Mr. Macron and Mr. Xi. It's a crowded field, and the other players have more economic clout. Good socks won't make the difference.