German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguably one of the currently most influential leaders in the world, and most certainly one of the more respected, has issued a shot across the bow of Donald Trump’s nascent US leadership in advance of next week’s G20 summit next week, raising the specter of a public and contentious clash over the protectionist and isolationist policies of the United States, in particular its stance on climate change.
A lot has already been said about the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement — from both within the United States, and around the world. Donald Trump’s naive and shockingly-ignorant decision came following his first trip abroad — a mixed affair, where he was hailed as a hero in the Middle East, and looked on with suspicion in Europe.
The isolationist tendencies of this Presidency are of no surprise to anyone who paid even the slightest attention to Donald Trump’s campaign, and the views of his aides, and these tendencies have begun to appear in US policy, both foreign and abroad. We saw these tendencies in the travel ban, in Trump’s decision to kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and his threats to “renegotiate” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Further, Donald Trump’s messy and blunt speech to NATO left members of one of the most important treaties concerned that the new US leader remained a NATO skeptic.
Through it all, several world leaders have stepped into the spotlight, or straightened further in the spotlight, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Specifically, in the wake of the NATO meeting in Brussels, Merekel set the stage for an emerging new world order that did not include the United States or the United Kingdom as key and leading members:
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
Fast forward a few weeks, and the upcoming G20 Summit that is set to be held on the 7th and 8th of July in Hamburg, Germany, is shaping up to be a contentious affair — one in which reports suggest Angela Merkel will likely challenge Donald Trump on climate change and his isolationist and protectionist policies. In a speech given to the German Bundestag on Thursday, Angela Merkel said “We will only be able to find the right answers to the critical questions of our time if we work together.”
Major challenges do not stop at national borders, Ms. Merkel said in the Bundestag, Germany’s constitutional and legislative body, adding that it will only be possible to find the right answers to the critical questions of our time if we work together.
“Whoever believes that the problems of this world can be resolved with isolationism and protectionism, is sadly mistaken,” she said.
Following a meeting of the European Union this week — in which all EU Member State heads, and the EU Presidents of the Council and Commission reaffirmed their strong commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, and voiced their desire to “swiftly and fully” implement the Agreement’s targets — Angela Merkel believes that a strong statement was made that “Europe can once again look to the future with renewed confidence.”
However, Ms. Merkel believes that the challenge to work together lies before all countries, not just the European Union. “The world is turbulent and has become more divided,” warned the Chancellor, who will be focusing on terrorism, climate change, and protectionism when leaders meet in Hamburg next week. “None of these challenges stops at some national border today.”
These are all not-so-subtle attacks at Donald Trump — who will know he is being targeted, even though Ms. Merkel never used his name. A less-subtle attack was her comments regarding the Paris Climate Agreement itself.
“Since the decision of the United States of America, to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, we are more determined that ever before to make it a success,” the Chancellor stated. “We want to master this existential challenge and we can master it, and we will not wait until the last people in the world are finally convinced by the crushing weight of the scientific evidence of climate change. In other world, the climate agreement is not reversible and it is non-negotiable.”
Either way, the G20 summit in Hamburg is certainly going to be worth keeping an eye on — which I’ll be doing, so stay tuned.