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G20 Summit Live Updates: Trump Meets With Top Leaders

Here’s what you need to know:


CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

To the surprise of exactly no one, President Trump snuck a look at the Democratic debate in between meetings with world leaders. And to the surprise of exactly no one, he professed not to be impressed.

Mr. Trump evidently passed a television set just before joining Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. “All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare,” he (or perhaps an aide) quickly typed out on his Twitter account. “How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!”

He then sat with Ms. Merkel and went ahead with the same criticism of Democrats as reporters were invited in the room. “And unfortunately they didn’t discuss what they’re giving to American citizens,” he said. “That’s not a good thing.”

Turning to Ms. Merkel, he explained. “You know they have a debate going on,” he said. “They had the first debate last night. Perhaps you saw it. It wasn’t very exciting, I can tell you that. And they have another one going on. They definitely have plenty of candidates, that’s about it. So I look forward to spending time with you rather than watching.”

CreditMichael Crowley/The New York Times

One thing world leaders have learned is how to play up to President Trump when he visits. In the latest example, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at their meeting on Friday gave the president a one-page map and chart — rendered in red, white and blue — showing recent Japanese investments in the United States.

“Japan has FIVE Additional Investments in JUST ONE MONTH,” the sheet declared with Trumpian boldness.

The five investments were all pretty small bore — $2 million for job training in Michigan and $3 million for 34 new jobs in Alabama, for example. The biggest one was $100 million financing 150 new jobs at a plant in Kentucky.

But the details matter less than the point — Mr. Abe, like other world leaders, has come to understand that the way to appeal to Mr. Trump is to tell him they are spending money in the United States. Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Abe for “sending” auto companies to the United States. “They’re building magnificent plants,” he said.

As the host of the G20 summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lined up a series of bilateral talks with leaders from around the globe, including President Trump, President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and Prime Minister Macky Sall of Senegal.

Conspicuously missing is a meeting between Mr. Abe and Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea. Given the fact that they are close neighbors, have shared concerns about North Korea and both host American military troops at a time when President Trump has been questioning the need for bases abroad, it would seem the two leaders might have plenty to talk about.

But diplomatic relations between the two countries have frayed considerably of late. The two countries have long tussled over the painful historical memory between them, with South Korea pushing Japan to more fully accept responsibility for occupying Korea and mobilizing Koreans for its war effort. But more recently, the old wounds have been reopened by a series of court decisions in Seoul regarding citizens who were conscripted to work effectively as slave laborers in Japanese factories during World War II.

Japanese government officials have steadfastly declined to answer questions about why the two sides are not meeting at the G20. But in a media briefing Friday morning, Takeshi Osuga, press secretary for the Foreign Ministry, coyly suggested that a meeting could yet take place.

“I don’t think the schedules and plans for all bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 summit have been announced,” Mr. Osuga said. “But there are ones that — I’m talking in general — are being worked out still.”

CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump and Xi Jinping, the top leader of China, both said at a news briefing early Friday afternoon that they wanted to foster the global development of the digital economy, but offered no details on how they might resolve their differences on what that economy might look like.

China has become the world’s dominant manufacturer and exporter of digital surveillance equipment, using it extensively at home and selling it to other countries, particularly in the developing world. Mr. Xi said that the interests of developing countries and industrialized countries would need to be carefully balanced in the digital economy.

“Effective data governance,” he said, “will not only facilitate the collection, analysis, application and flow of data, but also respect the right to self-management of all countries and ensure secure and orderly utilization of data.”

Mr. Trump said that the United States opposes some countries’ requirements that data be held within their borders. Not only China but also countries like India have enacted stringent rules requiring that data from their citizens be stored within their borders, where their security services are readily able to access it.

“American success in the digital economy is based on free flow of data, strong privacy and intellectual property protection, access to capital, and innovation,” said Mr. Trump, who read from a prepared script.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said last January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he wanted Japan’s chairmanship this year of the Group of 20 to produce a new international system for oversight of the tech sector. But there is little agreement on what such a system would look like.

CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Less than 24 hours after tweeting a strong complaint about India’s trade policies, part of a barrage of criticism of American allies, President Trump met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. Mr. Trump began their conversation with congratulations on Mr. Modi’s recent re-election and conciliatory comments about the need for close bilateral relations.

“We’re going to have some very big things to announce, a very big trade deal,” Mr. Trump said in front of journalists before the two men began their negotiations.

The relationship with India, he said, has not “ever been better than it is right now.”

Mr. Modi said that he and Mr. Trump would be discussing Iran, 5G mobile communications, bilateral relations and defense relations. “We have a position which is farsighted and positive,” Mr. Modi said.

Mr. Trump had tweeted before arriving in Osaka: “I look forward to speaking with Prime Minister Modi about the fact that India, for years having put very high Tariffs against the United States, just recently increased the Tariffs even further. This is unacceptable and the Tariffs must be withdrawn!”

India has the highest tariffs on imports of any of the world’s largest economies, somewhat higher than China’s although still below the tariffs of Brazil and some smaller developing economies.

Mr. Trump suspended three weeks ago India’s participation in the Generalized System of Preferences, an American program that allows goods from the world’s poorest nations to enter the United States with zero tariffs. India retaliated several days later by imposing tariffs on 28 products imported from the United States, including almonds, apples and walnuts.

Finance ministers and central bankers have long played a central role in organizing and running the Group of 20, but at this year’s summit, many of the big issues involve trade ministers.

In a clear attempt at rebuffing the Trump administration, China has come to the Osaka summit with the clear goal of putting language into the summit’s communiqué that would condemn unilateral actions on trade. The language would be aimed at rallying world opinion against President Trump’s imposition of 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion a year worth of Chinese exports to the United States.

“We hope the Osaka summit will build up the consensus on supporting the multilateral trading system, and opposing unilateralism and protectionism,” Wang Shouwen, China’s vice minister of commerce for North American issues, said at a news briefing in Beijing on Monday.

The United States has insisted that China open its markets much more to imports and buy more American goods. China was still clearly a developing country when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. So it was allowed to keep many trade barriers, like high tariffs on imports, that developing countries are typically allowed to retain but industrialized countries are not.

Expectations are very low for a comprehensive settlement of the many trade issues that divide the United States and China. Investors in financial markets have been watching for signs that Mr. Trump might agree not to go ahead with higher tariffs on another $300 billion a year of Chinese goods. But while the president’s advisers have made the legal preparations for him to order an increase in these tariffs, Mr. Trump has not actually set any timetable for acting.

CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump kicked off a packed day of diplomatic meetings on a diplomatic note, joining his host, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, without mentioning in front of news cameras, at least, his recent scathing criticism of the mutual defense treaty between their two countries.

Instead, as the two sat down for a meeting with top advisers, Mr. Trump alluded breezily to his recent largely ceremonial visit to Tokyo to meet the newly installed emperor and watch a sumo match. “We just left Japan and now I’m back,” Trump joked. Recalling the match, where a Trump-themed trophy was presented to the winner, Mr. Trump added, “Everybody’s talking about it all over the world.”

While reporters recorded the opening minutes, Mr. Trump extended thanks for Japanese auto companies’ building vehicles in the United States and said the two leaders would talk about trade and military matters.

He did not repeat statements he made to Fox Business Channel earlier in the week in which he complained that the Japanese-American security treaty, first signed in 1951, requires the United States to defend Japan but not the other way around. He said in the interview that if the United States were attacked, Japan would “watch it on a Sony television.”

Instead, the two men offered nothing but smiles and handshakes for the opening of the day’s events. Mr. Trump arrived at the International Exhibition Center, known as Intex Osaka, and was greeted by Mr. Abe, then posed for pictures together.

When the photos were taken, Mr. Trump summoned over not his secretary of state or national security adviser, but his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, both senior advisers, to pose for another picture with the prime minister.

CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Relations between China and Japan may be warming, but that did not stop Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from implicitly criticizing China for its record on civil rights on Thursday night.

At a briefing in Osaka, Takeshi Osuga, press secretary for Japan’s Foreign Ministry, said that Mr. Abe had pointed out to China’s president, Xi Jinping — the first Chinese president to visit Japan since Hu Jintao in 2010 — the importance of a “free and open Hong Kong, prosperous under one country, two systems, with the recent situation around Hong Kong’s extradition law in mind.”

It was a clear reference to the huge protests in the city over a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China. Mr. Abe also “emphasized the importance of upholding international values such as respect of freedom and human rights,” including with the Uighurs, ethnic minorities whom China has been persecuting by putting them in indoctrination camps.

During the two-day gathering of leaders from the Group of 20, the meeting’s official themes will include global economic risks, trade disputes, job growth and investment, innovation and artificial intelligence, and women in the workplace.

Several countries are also hoping to emphasize collective action against climate change, which could become a point of contention. Japan is emphasizing the problem of plastic litter in the world’s oceans and seas, and President Emmanuel Macron of France, in a direct challenge to President Trump, has threatened not to sign any official joint statement out of the meeting that does not include an affirmation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

But Mr. Trump has called climate change a hoax, disputed its causes and vowed to withdraw the United States from the agreement.

In the hours before and after leaving for the summit, Mr. Trump lashed out at three nations whose leaders are attending — Germany, India and the host, Japan. He is scheduled to meet with those countries’ leaders on Friday.

The Group of 20, which is meeting in Osaka, Japan, this year, is an organization of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union. In addition to the United States and the bloc, its members include China, Japan, Germany, France, India, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Britain, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Indonesia, Argentina and Australia.

CreditCarl Court/Getty Images

On the sidelines of the summit meeting, Mr. Trump is expected to meet several leaders. But all eyes will be on two of his conversations, in particular — with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, on Friday, and President Xi Jinping of China, on Saturday.

Mr. Trump has expressed the hope of refreshing relations with Mr. Putin. When the two meet, it will be the first time since the release of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election in the United States.

The presidents had planned to meet last year, but Mr. Trump called their meeting off at the last minute, citing Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships and detention of two dozen Ukrainian sailors, who remain in Russian custody. At Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin’s last formal session, in Helsinki, Finland, last year, Mr. Trump drew criticism and scorn for giving Mr. Putin’s denial of election interference equal weight to the contrary conclusion of American intelligence agencies.

Hanging over Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Xi is the bitter trade standoff between the two countries; efforts to reach a deal fell apart this year. Economic, trade and security disputes have led to mutual tariffs that have put world markets on edge.

Mr. Trump is expected to meet with at least nine leaders directly. On Friday, he has scheduled talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Mr. Putin and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. On Saturday, he is to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Xi and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

With so many world leaders in town, Osaka is going through the intensive security drill experienced by past hosts. According to Japanese news reports, 32,000 police officers will be guarding the city, where many streets will be closed and trash cans have been sealed to keep bombs from being placed. Even the city’s red-light district will be hanging discreet curtains and curbing illicit activities.

Japanese officials are campaigning this year to reduce the amount of plastic waste that flows into the oceans. Japan’s own record is mixed. Although it has been praised for improvements in trash collection and recycling, it is also a huge driver of plastic use, and the world’s second-largest generator of plastic waste per capita.

At a Group of 7 meeting last year, Japan and the United States did not sign on to a charter aimed at reducing marine waste. Japan and many Western nations also export their trash to poorer countries that may not have sophisticated recycling systems, resulting in more plastic waste that ends up in the sea.

A group of environmental ministers met this month in Japan and agreed on a set of voluntary measures to study the problem and clean up litter, which can destroy ecosystems, interfere with shipping navigation and clog beaches. Critics have said those measures do not go far enough.

CreditPool photo by Kimimasa Mayama

By the time Mr. Xi meets Mr. Trump on Saturday, he will already have met with the leaders of Russia, India, Japan and several other nations — a choreography devised by the Chinese to portray Mr. Xi as a man of the world with enough friends to offset the animosity of the United States.

Beyond that posturing, the meeting between the two men is unlikely to do much other than offer a pause in the trade conflict between China and the United States. Mr. Trump played down the importance of securing a trade deal with China this week and threatened to impose new tariffs, suggesting there is little chance of a resolution soon to the trade war, which has bruised both nations’ economies.

The Trump administration recently blacklisted several Chinese entities, restricting their access to American technology. Most prominently, the United States banned the sale of American technology to the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, and American officials have tried to convince allies in Europe that the company is a security threat.

Chinese and Western analysts expect Mr. Xi to try to maneuver past any rough talk by Mr. Trump on trade, seeking to avoid provocation and, ultimately, to string out trade negotiations until the 2020 presidential elections in the United States have been completed.

Reporting was contributed by Michael Crowley, Peter Baker, Keith Bradsher and Motoko Rich from Osaka, Japan, and by Jane Perlez from Beijing.

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