(AP) Leaders of the world’s top economies agreed Saturday to repair the global trading system as they closed a Group of 20 summit that saw the Trump administration at odds with many allies over the Paris accord on climate change and issues like migration.
The joint statement signed by all 20 member nations said 19 of them reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate accord, with the United States, which withdrew from the pact under President Donald Trump, the lone holdout. The official communique acknowledged flaws in global commerce and called for reforming the World Trade Organization, but it didn’t mention the word “protectionism” after negotiators said that had met resistance from the United States.
Applause broke out in the convention center hall as the leaders, including Trump, signed off on the statement at the end of the two-day summit in the Argentine capital, the first time it has been held in South America.
The non-binding agreement was reached after marathon talks by diplomats stretched overnight and into daylight, amid deep divisions between member nations. European Union officials said the United States was the main holdout on nearly every issue. Trump has criticized the WTO and taken aggressive trade policies targeting China and the EU.
But China also pushed back in talks on steel, South Africa objected to language on trade, Australia didn’t want the statement to be too soft on migration and Turkey worried it would push too far on climate change, according to the officials.
A senior White House official said the joint statement meets many U.S. objectives and stressed that it includes language about WTO reform. The official also noted other elements such as language on workforce development and women’s economic development and a commitment by China to doing infrastructure financing on “transparent terms.”
According to the official, the unusual language on climate was necessary for Washington to sign on, and Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia had appeared sympathetic to the U.S. position but ultimately stayed with the other countries.
The final language of the statement says, regarding climate, that 19 nations that are signatories to the Paris accord reiterate their commitment to it while the U.S. reiterates its decision to withdraw. It also notes a recent U.N. report that warned damage from global warming will be much worse than previously feared, and expresses support for an upcoming U.N. climate meeting in Poland meant to nail down how countries will meet promises made in the Paris accord.
On global commerce, the statement says the 20 countries support multilateral trade but acknowledge that the current system doesn’t work and needs fixing, via “the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning.”
The summit statement’s language on climate was welcomed by environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, the latter of which said in a statement: “The necessity of the U.S. being part of the effort to fight climate change cannot be denied, but this is a demonstration that the U.S. is still the odd one out.”
While a statement isn’t legally enforceable, the Europeans see it as proof that the G-20 is still relevant and that multilateralism still works.
“Everyone agrees that the WTO should be reformed,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “This is an important agreement.”
Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May both said they had pressed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for international involvement in investigating the October murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Istanbul.