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While agreeing on trade, US did not back Paris Accord at G20

As the G20 summit in Argentina came to a close on Saturday, world leaders agreed on some trade issues, but not on a host of others, including climate change. NewsHour Foreign Affairs and Defense Correspondent Nick Schifrin joins Hari Sreenivasan for an update.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    President Trump canceled a scheduled press conference of the G 20 summit in Buenos Aires Argentina today citing the death of former President George H.W. Bush. In a tweet he said out of respect for the Bush family he would quote wait until after the funeral to have a press conference. The summit wrapped up with world leaders agreeing on some trade issues but not unanimously on a host of other issues including climate change issues are Foreign Affairs and Defense Correspondent Nick Schifrin joins us now from Buenos Aires.

    Nick, usually there are these communiques about what the entire conference does agree on. In this case there were a lot of things that we didn't agree on. So how do we get over that impasse and what's on the piece of paper?

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Yeah three or four main disagreements you mentioned one of them climate change. Basically there is a G 20 and a G 19 G 19 is the reference to the 19 countries that are either in the Paris climate accord or support the Paris climate accord and the United States. And this communique got over that difference by just acknowledging that theU.S. is not going to support the plight of the Paris climate accord. And that is language Harik that we've seen in the past as well on migration. This was a real red line. According to multiple diplomats that I've spoken to from theU.S. side theU.S. sherpa as he's known the diplomat who negotiated this deal basically said that he cannot have a in-depth discussion of migration or global migration crisis requiring a global migration response because I didn't want the president to read that and get angry and so the language that everyone decided on is very basic. All it does is say that the G 20 will study migration into the future. And the other big one was trade and steel on steel they didn't really accomplish very much frankly. They said again that will study this issue and on trade. This was the most difficult. The U.S. objected to any kind of use of the word protectionism. China was on the other side pushing for language that endorsed free trade and the compromise was this. A recognition of the contribution of multilateral trading. That doesn't sound like much but that took days according to diplomats to get just that one sentence and that meant they could get to this sentence system is falling short of the objectives meaning the multilateral trading system is falling short of the objectives that allowed China and the U.S. to agree on one thing they never have agreed on before which is reforming the World Trade Organization.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And Nick it's why while you and I are talking right now is about the same time that the president is starting to have a conversation hopefully with President Xi of China. What are we expecting out of that conversation.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Yeah we are taping this right as that conversation begins. And both sides are indicating that they want to make a deal. We heard Robert Leithauser the trade representative who's been a real hawk on China yesterday said he'd be very surprised if a dinner was not a success. I spoke to a senior Chinese official just a few minutes ago who said that I hope and believe this meeting will play a positive role for our bilateral relationship. And look a lot of officials are calling this now the new cold war between the U.S. and China that is not going to end tonight over dinner. But what you could see if what is being indicated by both sides come true is a kind of cease fire. What does that look like. The U.S. suspends tariffs that are supposed to start on January 1st and China begins to buy products that it stop buying things like soybeans and energy products. And the larger problems everything as you know from intellectual property to China's military expansion in the South China Sea to the Belt and Road. Well those issues will simply have to wait for another day.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. And finally Nick what is the news of the death of George H.W. Bush. How is that being received here? Because many of these countries obviously these countries have long relationships with the United States. Some of the leadership might still remember him.

  • NICK SCHIFRIN:

    Yeah a lot of the leaders actually not only still remember him those who have been around to remember him but also a new leader. So we heard Emmanuel Macron of France who is in his early 40s who I don't believe ever actually worked with George H.W. Bush he said that he went up to President Trump and said we were sorry for your loss and we condole and then you heard the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel called H.W. Bush one of the fathers of unification as his role at the end of the Cold War in unifying Germany. And so just as we're seeing in Washington here and when outsiders from all of these leaders who represent 80 percent of the world's GDP outpouring of sympathy conveyed to President Trump.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Foreign Affairs and Defense Correspondent Nick Schifrin joining us from Buenos Aires. Thanks so much.

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