G20 ‘family photo’ underscores key policy differences in new world order
Saturday - 08/07/2017 01:37
IT IS an annual tradition renowned for throwing up spectacularly awkward moments — and this year is no exception.
This time, the “family photo” taken at the beginning of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, has highlighted global divisions on critical issues such as climate change and trade.
The 2017 picture shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel front and centre, as tradition dictates for a host nation. She is flanked by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on her left.
To her her right side is Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who will host the next summit, South African leader Jacob Zuma, Mexico’s Pena Nieto and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron are at the end, exiled to the fringes by their relative newcomer status.
Placement at summits can be a politicised affair, with critical optics that can boost or diminish a leader’s global standing.
G20 tradition dictates that global leaders who have served the longest in power are closer to the centre of the photo — hence the relatively prominent position of India’s Narendra Modi, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Meanwhile, those newer to the job tend to take positions on the outer reaches, as seen with Mr Trump and Mr Macron, who are both newly elected.
But while the placement might be a matter of protocol rather than political pointscoring, it underscores critical ructions in international affairs that have begun to develop under Mr Trump’s approach to trade and the environment.
Since taking office in January, Mr Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris climate change agreement and championed an “America first” economic approach, blasting Germany and China for taking advantage of the US.
A draft statement from the agreement shows the G20 leaders have isolated Trump on climate change by backing the agreement.
On Friday she said: “it will be very interesting to see how we formulate the communique tomorrow and make clear that, of course, there are different opinions in this area because the United States of America regrettably ... wants to withdraw from the Paris accord.”
Opening the summit on Friday, Ms Merkel said the countries would aim to work together “without giving up our principles”.
“We can very clearly say ‘we differ’,” she said. But she added that “solutions can only be found if we are ready to compromise”.
A joint statement from the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China also for the Paris climate agreement to be implemented, despite Mr Trump’s decision to pull out.
“The Paris agreement on climate change is an important consensus that doesn’t come easily and must not be given up easily,” Mr Xi.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said G20 leaders are urging Mr Trump to reconsider his decision.
“We are not renegotiating the Paris agreement, that stays, but I want to see the US looking for ways to rejoin it,” she said.
Ms Merkel is also under internal pressure at the summit. She faces an election in September and has to ensure the summit is a success in bringing together vastly different political leaders against a backdrop of major security concerns.