The 2017 G20 Summit is set to be held today and tomorrow in Hamburg, Germany, and based on current evidence it seems likely that the annual meeting between the leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful economies will not be without controversy. In this sense, all eyes are sure to be focused on US President Donald Trump as he meets face-to-face with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and sits down for his first-ever meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
2017 G20 Summit: The Basic Facts
Despite featuring the most powerful leaders in the world, the G20 Summit is generally more notable for the bilateral meetings and agreements between individual countries than it is for any multilateral efforts. In fact, the leaders don’t actually hold any formal votes on issues as this sort of negotiating is saved for the United Nations. However, this doesn’t mean that these summits are without merit, as in most years, one politician tends to set the agenda.
In this sense, it’s no coincidence that the 2017 G20 Summit is being held in Angela Merkel’s hometown of Hamburg and the German Chancellor has already stated her intent to make climate change, migration and free trade this year’s key issues. The fact that Donald Trump’s position on all three issues is almost directly opposed to the views held by Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders means that the one-on-one meetings between the US President and the German Chancellor could become quite heated.
Already Merkel has stated that Europe could no longer rely on the United States in response to Trump withdrawing the US from the Paris agreement. For his part, Trump has previously made disparaging remarks about his German counterpart and has also frequently complained about NATO and US-EU trade deals. Overall, Trump is likely to receive a frosty reception in Germany, and if the photo of yesterday’s awkward handshake between the two leaders is any indication, it doesn’t look as though they have moved past these earlier conflicts.
Russia and the Trump Factor
One of the reasons that this year’s G20 is drawing so much interest is that no one really seems to have a clue exactly what Donald Trump might say or do. Famed for his outlandish remarks, the US President has already proved to be highly unpredictable and, as such, it’s nearly impossible to guess what might transpire during his meetings with various world leaders.
One meeting that it sure to be much talked about is Trump’s sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although this will be the first time the two men meet face-to-face, they have long been linked together due to the various complements Trump has paid Putin and also the continuing US investigation into Russia’s meddling with the 2016 election. For these reasons, it will be fascinating to see what the two leaders have to say when they finally meet.
Other Key Issues
Several weeks prior to this year’s summit, Angela Merkel and a selection of African leaders met to discuss the proposed ‘G20 African Partnership Initiative.’ The fact that Merkel intends to make mass migration one of the summit’s key talking points means that this initiative and Africa in general are likely to be brought up once again. Merkel and other leaders contend that the best way to stop the continued mass illegal migration of Africans into Europe is for Germany and other powerful economies to provide financial and material support to African development projects.
While migration, trade and climate are the key areas that will be discussed within the summit, developments outside the meeting could be just as noteworthy. Anti-capitalism protesters have already begun arriving in Hamburg en masse and some are already predicting that as many as 100,000 people could attend a protest scheduled for Saturday. Although the city has dramatically ramped up its police presence, many experts are still worried that this year’s summit could see a repeat of the events at the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy where a clash between police and an estimated 200,000 protesters eventually ended in the death of one young Italian protester.
With so many protesters converging on Hamburg’s city center, it seems that the potential for fireworks outside the summit is just as high as the potential inside the conference center where the leaders are set to meet. All of this means that the 2017 G20 Summit will definitely be interesting to watch.