Merkel’s Agenda Set to Stoke Skirmishes With Trump at G20 Summit

Berlin ( – German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to make climate change, free trade and mass migration key themes, at the Group of 20 (G20) summit starting Friday in Hamburg, setting her on a potential collision course with President Trump.

“Anyone who believes the problems of this world can be solved with isolationism and protectionism is making a huge mistake,” Merkel said in announcing her agenda for the gathering of leaders from the 20 leading and emerging industrial countries.

She said she intends to focus on the climate and “open markets, and free, fair, sustainable, and inclusive trade.”

The northern port city will host 41 delegations from countries and international organizations, and leaders expected to attend include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron.

It will be Trump’s second visit as president to Europe, and comes at a time when international divisions are high. Trump’s departure from the Paris climate accord and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, Britain’s negotiations to leave the E.U., Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea and accusations of interfering in U.S. and German elections, and Erdogan’s harsh crackdown and narrow referendum victory are among factors contributing to tensions.

On his previous visit Trump sparred with European leaders at the G7 summit in Italy over climate change, NATO and refugees. His “America First” policy had strained relations, with Merkel saying that Europe could no longer “fully rely” on the U.S.

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German-Turkish relations are also strained, most recently over Berlin’s refusal to allow Erdogan to address a public rally of ethnic Turks in Hamburg. Germany said the speech could spark violence between members of the large Turkish diaspora.

Amid an unresolved controversy at home over Russian influence, careful public attention will also be given to the first meeting between Trump and Putin, expected to take place on the summit sidelines on Friday.

After phone conversations with Trump and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Monday, Merkel indicated she did not expect differences to be bridged during the summit.

“We know the positions set out by the American government and I do not expect that these positions will be laid aside because of a two-day trip to Hamburg and that they will be suddenly reflected in the communique,” she told reporters on Monday.

While presenting her party’s platform for this year’s election. Merkel also spoke out against protectionism, saying that it “harms everyone concerned.”

She concluded that while there would likely be agreement on combating terrorism financing, “a whole series of thorny issues” remain in place within the G20.

Pre-summit meetings between Merkel and Trump on Thursday night and Merkel and Putin to discuss Ukraine have been announced.

The summit is of particular importance for Merkel, offering her last chance to stand on the international stage ahead of the federal elections in September.

Martin Schulz, leader of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and a rival for the chancellorship, has criticized Merkel for being too soft in dealing with what he called “autocrats.”

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“Should we be making concessions to Trump, Erdogan and Putin? No,” Schulz told newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “A democratic government needs to ask itself if it wants to join in consensus declarations with autocrats.”

“The German chancellor must sometimes dare to be in conflict with the American president,” Schulz said. “You can also give a president a clear ‘no.’ I would say to Trump: We don’t agree with your reasoning for a military buildup, which isn’t justified at all.”

In the current climate, the prospects for broad disagreements among G20 nations on trade, climate, global inequality, security, and refugees remain high.

“Neither on finance nor trade, let alone climate change, will Hamburg deliver any significant improvement over the status quo,” German Institute for International and Security Affairs senior fellow Heribert Dieter told the Council of Foreign Relations on Sunday.

“Worse, there might be open conflict over protectionist measures the Trump government might implement,” he added.

Security for the summit remains a concern, and 21,000 police from across Germany, will attempt to protect the leaders, using dogs, horses and helicopters.

Hamburg leftwing activist Andreas Blechschmidt said attending world leaders have much to answer for.

“The policies of the G20 have created hellish conditions in many countries around the world,” he was quoted by Tagesshau daily as saying. “We want to show them that we can turn up the heat too.”

More than 100,000 protesters are expected during the summit. Last weekend, around 10,000 took to the streets of Hamburg for demonstrations that were mostly peaceful but included a clash with police that left several injured and led to one arrest.

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On Sunday, police detained a 30-year-old man in the northern coastal city of Rostock, who they said was plotting “significant crimes” in connection with the summit. Police found throwing knives, baseball bats, and brass knuckles, at his and another man’s home.

The nations of the G20 account together for around 80 percent of global GDP, nearly 75 percent of all global trade, and about two-thirds of the world’s population.

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