HAMBURG — President Trump and other world leaders on Saturday emerged from two days of talks unable to resolve key differences on core issues like climate change and globalization, fueling worries that global summits may be ineffective in the Trump era.
The divisions at the G-20 summit were most bitter on climate change, where 19 leaders formed a unified front against Trump. But even in areas of nominal compromise like trade, top European leaders said they have little faith that an agreement forged today could hold tomorrow.
“Our world has never been so divided,” French President Emmanuel Macron said as the talks broke up. “Centripetal forces have never been so powerful. Our common goods have never been so threatened.”
Macron said world leaders found common ground on terrorism but were otherwise split on numerous important topics. He also said there were rising concerns about “authoritarian regimes, and even within the Western world, there are real divisions and uncertainties that didn’t exist just a few short years ago.”
“I will not concede anything in the direction of those who are pushing against multilateralism,” Macron said, without directly referring to Trump. “We need better coordination, more coordination. We need those organizations that were created out of the Second World War. Otherwise we will be moving back toward narrow-minded nationalism.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted the summit in the port city of Hamburg, said there had been some areas of agreement. But she did little to hide her disappointment about U.S. actions on climate change.
“Wherever there is no consensus that can be achieved, disagreement has to be made clear,” Merkel said at the end of the summit. “Unfortunately, and I deplore this, the United States of America left the climate agreement.”
“I am gratified to note that the other 19 members of the G-20 feel the Paris agreement is irreversible,” Merkel said.
White House officials had measured expectations for the summit, hoping to explain Trump’s priorities and find some compromises, even small ones.
Their assessment of the outcome was sharply different from Merkel and Macron’s cautious tone.
“It’s been a really great success,” a senior White House official who was not authorized to speak on the record said Saturday before Trump departed for the United States. “We are going to get some of the priorities of the administration” out of this summit.”
Trump was not planning to hold a news conference following the summit, breaking with tradition of previous presidents, who typically seize the opportunity to shape the narrative.
White House officials pointed to several minor changes to the G-20’s official statement on trade policy, saying it better reflects the Trump administration’s point of view.
“We recognise that the benefits of international trade and investment have not been shared widely enough,” the G-20 countries said in a joint statement. “We need to better enable our people to seize the opportunities.”
Similar language was not in the G-20 agreement in 2016 before Trump’s election.
The U.S. also prodded other countries to intensify a review of the overproduction of steel, something Trump has said has ravaged the U.S. steel industry because they cannot compete with cheaper prices from countries like China. In response, the G-20 agreed to share information about steel production by August and for a formal report with recommendations to be issued by November. There likely won’t be consequences if the deadlines are missed, but it does create a formal process for the White House to amplify its complaints.
Global steel production has soared, with China accounting for a much larger share than 20 years ago. In 2000, China produced 15 percent of the world’s crude steel. By 2016, it produced close to 50 percent. The White House has alleged that China subsidizes its steel industry, which helps it lower prices and put U.S. steel jobs at risk. China was one of the countries that agreed to the new G-20 steel requirements on Saturday.
Isaac Stanley-Becker and Abby Philip contributed to this report.