The G-20 Edition
Germany hosted the G-20 meeting in Hamburg over the weekend. This was one of the highest-profile international meetings United States President Donald Trump has attended so far.
Ahead of the meeting, Germany worked hard to emphasize its free-trade credentials. Hamburg is Germany’s largest port and the second-busiest port in Europe after Rotterdam. In the run-up to the meeting, Europe and Japan announced the outlines of a new trade deal that would create a trade bloc that could vie with NAFTA as the largest trade bloc in the world. So Europe was really doing a lot to put itself forward as the new leader of the free world and the alternative leader of the world’s economic system.
In some ways, the G-20 summit went more smoothly than expected. Ahead of the meeting, President Trump finally committed to defending other nato members if they were attacked. He also agreed to a watered-down version of support for free trade–something that the U.S. had previously refused to sign.
But America’s isolation was still clear. Most obviously it was in America’s refusal to back the Paris climate agreement. The U.S. was the only nation of the G-20 members who didn’t sign.
If one hails China as a savior of the environment while condemning America, there’s something wrong with one’s understanding of the situation. Nevertheless, the world views America as isolated, and a lot of anger toward the U.S. is being stirred up within Europe.
But perhaps more significant than what happened at the meeting itself is what happened around it. The press dubbed what happened in Hamburg during the G-20 as “an orgy of violence.”
The 20,000 extra police who had descended on the city for the event lost control. Foreign leaders, including the wife of the American president, were kept in lockdown while the mob raged nearby. The mob looted stores, burned cars and attacked police with rocks, bottles and fireworks. Nearly 500 police officers were injured and protesters caused millions of dollars’ worth of property damage.
Germans are not happy about this. Almost universally the German press are demanding swift and decisive action, and leaders from both political parties are falling over each other to try and provide it. They want an EU database of far-left activists. There is talk of shutting down far-left organizations or institutions. The interior minister said that these rioters are as bad as neo-Nazis and Muslim terrorists.
The political response shows a commendable devotion to law and order. It’s refreshing to see the protesters not given room to destroy, but rather confronted. It will be interesting to see exactly where this leads in the run-up to the German elections.
Finally, there is yet another important meeting coming up. Tomorrow, on the eve of Bastille Day, France’s nation holiday, France and Germany are set to announce their first concrete proposals. This meeting is also to demonstrate their new stronger partnership after the election of Emmanuel Macron. Exactly how significant the proposals are remains to be seen, but they will push Europe toward becoming more united. The meeting is expected to produce a road map for the eurozone to work more closely together.
Germany and France also aim to unveil a new plan to have the same corporate tax rate across Europe. This would mark a massive shift in power to the EU. However, the two have made the most progress with regards to the military. The two countries are working on plans for a smaller group of nations to do more together militarily. This plan should be unveiled tomorrow. After an earlier meeting, the German defense minister said, “We are working toward a European army.