Michael Birnbaum, Damian Paletta
HAMBURG, Germany - The growing international isolation of the United States under President Donald Trump was starkly apparent Friday as the leaders of major world economies mounted a nearly united opposition front against Washington on issues ranging from climate to free trade.
At a gathering of the Group of 20 world economic powers - normally a venue for drab displays of international comity - there were tough clashes with the United States and even talk of a possible transatlantic trade war.
The tensions were a measure of Trump’s sharp break with previous U.S. policies. They were also a warning signal of Washington’s diminished clout, as the leaders of the other nations who gathered in Hamburg mulled whether to fix their signatures to statements that would exclude Trump or to find some sort of compromise. Two European officials said they were leaning toward a united front against Washington.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faced the difficult job of bridging the differences, made little attempt to paper over the disagreements after the first day of meetings.
“The discussions are very difficult. I don’t want to talk around that,” Merkel said.
She described the view of most participants that “we need free but also fair trade,” a rejection of Trump’s skepticism about the value of sweeping free-trade agreements. And she predicted that the lower-level officials charged with negotiating a final statement deep into the night “had a lot of work ahead of them.”
Some of the clearest divides had to do with climate change after Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the Paris climate accord. There were sharp warnings about U.S. steel policy as Trump mulls restrictions on imports.
The summit was also the venue for the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom U.S. intelligence agencies accuse of intervening in November’s election to swing it in favor of the Republicans. The two leaders sat for a 2-hour-and-16-minute meeting, which started out with warm jokes but ended with a disagreement about whether Trump accepted Putin’s denial that his country had interfered in the election.
In one of the most consequential decisions of his young administration, Trump could within days impose the restrictions on steel, a move that could affect trade with more than a dozen major countries.
“We will respond with countermeasures if need be, hoping that this is not actually necessary,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters, adding figuratively: “We are prepared to take up arms if need be.”
Juncker warned that Europe would respond in days, not months, if Trump announces the restrictions.
The comments made for a remarkable display of disharmony as the gathering got underway. They also were a reflection of how European officials not only do not fear Trump but also see much to gain from opposing him. Trump is deeply unpopular in Europe, and politicians here can get a boost when they emphasize their differences.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has nearly finished a multi-month review of U.S. steel imports, and he has said that the large amount of steel imported by the United States puts national security at risk because it has weakened the domestic steel industry. The White House is considering using this rationale to impose new restrictions, either by imposing tariffs or quotas, or a combination of the two.
Ahead of the summit, the White House was close to making a decision, but top Trump administration advisers slowed the process down at the last minute, persuading Trump to meet with other world leaders at the G-20 before deciding how to proceed.
The Trump administration has blamed China for what it says is a “global overcapacity” of steel, essentially arguing that China’s government is subsidizing its steel industry and allowing producers to create and export so much steel that it drives down prices and makes it difficult for U.S. producers to compete.
But any U.S. restriction on steel imports would have a relatively muted effect on China and would hit other countries much harder.
The largest exporters of steel to the United States are Canada, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey, according to the IHS Global Trade Atlas. Germany also has a large steel industry, and German officials have been concerned about what a unilateral move to impose restrictions on steel imports to the United States might mean.
Trump and Merkel spoke about trade and steel a few days ago, a reflection of how seriously both sides consider any new action on the issue.
U.S. negotiators were pressing their international counterparts on what they described as a global glut of steel production in the hopes that they can reach an agreement by Saturday on how to curb it, a U.S. official said. The official said the issue was consuming significant time.
Other countries have also stood in opposition to Trump’s drive to erect trade barriers.
When there is protectionism, “the entire international economy shrinks,” Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Norio Maruyama told reporters.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told leaders that all countries in the global economy must abide by “free and fair rules, and these rules need to be maintained at the high level, and need to be respected,” Maruyama said.
In a Twitter post Friday, Trump wrote of the G-20 that “I will represent our country well and fight for its interests! Fake News Media will never cover me accurately but who cares!”
After the conclusion of the first day of meetings, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders were going very well.
“We’ve had very productive economic meetings,” he told reporters at the summit. “There’s been very substantive issues discussed,” he said without going into detail.
As Trump entered the meetings Friday morning, he strode up to Merkel, smiling, then shook her hand vigorously. Walking away, he looked toward reporters and pumped his fist in the air.
The White House’s National Economic Council has changed the Trump administration’s approach to steel in the past week, people familiar with the strategy said. It is hoping to galvanize other countries at the G-20 to work together to confront China over its government support for its steel industry, with the idea that joint pressure could be more effective and remove the possibility that the United States has to move alone.
It is unclear, though, whether that approach will be effective. European Union officials on Friday emphasized their commitment to free trade and open borders.
“It’s up to us to avoid such things as protectionism, this very simple thing. That would be wrong,” Juncker said.
The EU has pointed proudly at a wide-ranging trade deal with Japan, concluded Thursday, as a retort to Trump’s protectionist inclinations. Juncker said Europe expects to increase its exports to Japan by a third after trade barriers drop away.
Merkel “certainly will have to use all of her diplomatic skill to make headway on these difficult questions,” Juncker said.
After Friday’s meetings, lower-level negotiators were poised to gather late and hammer out details through the night.
Another EU leader, European Council President Donald Tusk, said he was heartened by Trump’s words of support for Western organizations such as NATO during a Thursday visit to
Warsaw ahead of the G-20. But he was cautious about whether the American outlook had actually changed after months of strain between Washington and Europe.
“We have been waiting for a long time to hear these words from President Trump,” said Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland. “But the real question is whether it was a one-time incident or a new policy. President Trump said yesterday in Warsaw that words are easy but it is actions that matter. And the first test will be our meeting here in Hamburg.”
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The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.
G-20 정상회담 고립되는 미국
마이클 번바움, 다미안 팔레타
함부르크, 독일 - 이번 G-20 정상회담에서 미국이 세계무대에서 고립된 형세를 보여줘 우려된다.
파리 환경조약부터 자유무역 등의 사안에서 세계 주요 경제 강국들이 연합해 미국에 반대하는 모습이 나왔다.
타 국가 정상들은 심지어 미국을 제외한 성명서에 사인을 할지 아니면 합의점을 찾아볼지 고민하기까지 했다. 2명의 유럽 정상들은 연대해 트럼프에 맞서는 것이 더 좋다고 말했다. 미국과 유럽 간 중재자 역할이 기대됐던 독일의 메르켈 총리조차 갈등 완화를 위한 적극적인 움직임을 보여주지 않았다.
메르켈 총리는 “자유무역이자 그리고 공정무역이 되어야 한다는 것이 유럽국가들의 입장”이라고 설명했다.
이는 트럼프가 최근 미국과 세계 각국 사이의 자유무역협정에 대해 재협상을 주장하는 것에 대한 반대논리다.
동시에 메르켈 총리는 앞으로 국가간 세부 갈등 사안들을 조정해 최종 성명을 내야할 실무진들이 늦은 밤까지 해야 할 일이 많을 것이라 설명했다.
무역관련 사안 중 가장 결정적인 것은 미국이 철강 수입에 대한 제재 고려다. 이에 발끈한 유럽 위원회 집행위원장 장-클로드 융커는 트럼프 대통령이 제재를 발표한다면 수개월이 아니라 수 일 내에 대응 제재 조치를 내 놓을 것이라고 경고했다.
본래 이 철강 수입 제재 안의 주된 목표는 중국이었을 가능성이 높다.
트럼프 정부는 중국이 세계 철강 과잉 생산의 원인이라고 비난한 바 있다. 중국정부가 자국 내 철강 기업들을 지원하기 때문에 미국 철강 기업들이 공정한 경쟁을 할 수 없다는 주장이다.
그러나 공교롭게도 이번 철강 수입 제재 안은 중국에 입히는 타격은 미미하고 대부분의 영향은 유럽 국가들에게 미칠 것으로 보인다.
이번 G-20 정상회담 중 트럼프 대통령과 푸틴 대통령이 만나기도 했다.
둘은 친근한 농담으로 2시간 여간의 회담을 시작했지만 뒤로 가면서 두 정상이 러시아의 미국대선개입 의혹에 대해 입장차이를 보이며 마무리 됐다.
한편 유럽 이사회 의장 도날드 투스크는 미 유럽 관계에 대한 긍정적인 평가를 하기도 했다. 그는 트럼프 대통령이 G-20 전 바르샤바를 방문해서 NATO 와 같은 서구 문화권의 여러 기구들에 대한 지지를 표명한 것에 용기를 얻었다고 설명했다.
그러나 그 또한 현재 미국과 유럽간의 대치 분위기에 아직까지는 조심스럽다고 심경을 전했다.
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도움: 워싱턴포스트 이삭 스탠리-베커 .
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