G20 leaders opened annual talks on Friday stalked by the deepest divisions since their first summit 10 years ago , with US President Donald Trump under fire for destroying the group ’ s past consensus on trade and climate change .Russian President Vladimir Putin, under pressure himself after his security forces seized three Ukrainian ships , set the tone by condemning the “ vicious ” use of sanctions and trade protectionism .
The target was clear , as Trump — who canceled a planned meeting with Putin in Buenos Aires — tears up the stability promoted by the G20 powers when they first convened in November 2008 in the grip of financial crisis .
Putin’ s attack , and similar criticism of Trump ’ s isolationist stance by French President Emmanuel Macron , capped an incident – packed buildup to the G20 that included flare -ups over Ukraine and Saudi Arabia .
Putin grinned broadly and welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman like a long- lost friend with a high -five ahead of a group photo where Trump stood grimly .
The summit marks a quick return to the international stage for the Prince Mohammed after the kingdom came under fire for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate .
Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May both said they were raising the killing of Khashoggi during meetings with the 33 – year – old prince .
May told British media she intended to use the summit to sell the vision of a “ global Britain ” after its Brexit departure from the European Union , scheduled for March next year .
EU president Donald Tusk was more focused on the Ukraine crisis , saying at the G20 that he was “ sure ” the bloc would roll over its sanctions on Russia next month .
On the G20 front , Tusk admitted the world was undergoing a “ difficult moment ” overall, as Trump pursues a vision at odds with the idea of collective action on trade and climate change .
US objections on those fronts have seen two major summits this year , of the Group of Seven democracies and the Asia -Pacific Economic Cooperation forum , end without the once – routine statements .
The same disputes were hobbling adoption of a G20 communique, observers said . One French source said Macron was trying to build an anti – Trump front with a separate statement embraced by “ progressive countries . ”
Such a statement would endorse the Paris Agreement on climate change , the source said , after Trump yanked the United States out of the pact in the face of increasingly urgent warnings from scientists that action is needed now .
With a major UN meeting on climate change starting in Poland straight after the G20 , UN chief Antonio Guterres said in Buenos Aires that “ this is a make – it – or -break -it moment . ”
For Trump , there was no escape from the lengthening shadow of the US investigation over Russian meddling in his 2016 election , which is now reaching into his business affairs.
The US president began Friday with another Twitter blast defending his past property dealings in Russia , again denouncing the investigation as a “ witch hunt , ” a day after his ex – lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress over the affair .
On the G20 margins , Trump scored one victory for his “ America First ” agenda with the signing of a successor to the North American free trade pact NAFTA , the US – Mexico – Canada Agreement .
Although the new pact inherits key features from the old one , Trump has declared it a victory for the US workers he claims were cheated by NAFTA and on Friday called it the most “ modern and balanced agreement in history . ”
“ This is a model agreement that changes the trade landscape forever , ” Trump said at the signing ceremony in Buenos Aires .
The president has also ignited a trade war with China , and will dine with President Xi Jinping on Saturday after the G20 summit concludes .
But Trump , arguing controversially that his trade tariffs are paying off , says he may now not want a deal with Xi , even if world markets certainly hope for one to defuse the conflict between the world ’ s two largest economies .
The G 20 summit is the biggest international gathering in Argentina ’ s history , but comes at a bad time for the host country as it endures a crippling economic crisis .
Protesters have vowed a mass rally later Friday, underlining security concerns after recent football violence forced the relocation of a showpiece final to Spain .
But the government is vowing zero tolerance of any unrest , and declared a public holiday for Friday, shuttering the metro system and keeping the normally choked roads largely free of traffic .
“ The summit seems a nonsense to me , ” call center worker Agustina Vianello , 25 , told AFP .
“ We are in a bad situation , and we ’ re putting a pile of money into this ? Everything’ s high security. It’ s strange to see everything so empty , ” she said .
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