This weekend the 2018 G20 summit was held in Buenos Aires, and unlike any other summit this year, it managed to put together a statement of intent signed by all attendees. The document, however, doesn’t signify unification or agreement on all things discussed. Instead, it highlights just how very separate the US is right now, from the rest of its allies.
And the main sticking point? Climate change, of course.
Over the course of the year, two other summits, the G7 meeting in Canada and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held in Papua New Guinea, both failed to produce a communique – a statement or blueprint for how nations plan to work together to fix the world’s problems – that everybody could sign off on.
Admittedly, the US did sign off initially on the G7 communique, however, Trump later withdrew US support after Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, criticized the US’ tariffs in a press conference. Trump didn’t attend the APEC summit this year, he sent Vice President Mike Pence in his stead.
This G20 summit, however, got the US to agree, of sorts, on one of the most contentious points, trade, but not climate change.
The non-binding document addressed the current global issues on trade, stating: “We welcome the strong global economic growth while recognizing it has been increasingly less synchronized between countries…We also note current trade issues.”
In a bid to diffuse a potential trade war brewing between the US and China, the document vaguely commits to a reform of the World Trade Organisation [WTO], promising to review it at the next summit. This is a boon for the US, as Trump has been very vocal about the US being treated “very badly” by the WTO, and threatening to leave if it doesn’t “shape up”.
However, climate change was one of the most important subjects tackled at the summit, and it was here the separation began. The joint statement of 19 of the world’s leaders, united in reiterating the importance of the Paris Agreement being upheld, and the need to mitigate climate change to save the planet and the people who occupy it, jarred quite conspicuously with Trump’s agenda to put America and its economy first.
In fact, separate language was required in the Paris climate accord section to get Trump to sign it at all.