Thursday, July 6, 2017

G20 Preview: Damned If I Know

One media outlet was looking for my take on what to expect from this G20 meeting in Germany.  My quick answer: I have no idea.  Usually, these things are semi scripted so you know what agreements are likely to be endorsed.  But in the Age of Trump, the US does no homework, it does not set the agenda, and it does not follow an agenda.  For Trump's meeting with Putin, there is no agenda.  His aides have said that it will be up to whatever Trump wants to talk about at the time the meeting starts.

So, no, not easy to make predictions.  I will say that one basic dynamic is key to understand: Trump does not see America's partners as friends or as, well, partners, but as competitors.  When he met with South Korea's President in the shadow of North Korea's missile tests, he pushed on trade deficits.  When Trump sees Merkel, he mostly focuses on Germany's trade surplus (and his misogyny).  Don't expect much cooperation or new initiatives. 

The thing to watch is how the others work around Trump. Do they confront, which seems to be Merkel's plan?  Do they pander or try to assuage Trump?  That would be Trudeau's preference.  What will the 19 do?  Will they allow China to dominate? 

Who will defend the international order?  Not Trump.  What is the best way to do that?  No idea, but I am guessing that Trudeau may have the right idea.

Anyhow, this is going to be a train wreck, which means we don't know where the derailed cars will land.  And yes, the Uncertainty Engine is operating in high gear.

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