German G20 & President Trump

In this Q&A Nancy Alexander and Melville Moses Andradé latest post, discusses hopes and concerns with regards to the incoming Trump administration.

Q: So, US President Trump will participate in the 2017 German-led G20 process. How do you think he will make his mark on the group?

A: A lot will depend upon the relationship that he has with Chancellor Merkel. Many of us were very pleased that the Chancellor made an announcement the day after the US election saying that she would welcome cooperation with Mr. Trump on the base of shared universal values, including democracy, the rule of law, human dignity regardless of gender, religion, sexual orientation, political views, and color of the skin. We were very pleased.

Q: Indeed, she made a big impression with that statement, didn’t she?

A: Yes! Perhaps, some of us in the US really didn’t fully realize the love and devotion that we have to these democratic values until the election, when we felt that they could be under threat.

Q: Well, what are the prospects for a good relationship between the two leaders?

A: As it stands, the Obama and the Merkel administrations have had disagreements over fiscal policy. The Obama administration has wanted greater economic stimulus and less austerity, and German leaders have been unwilling to provide that.

Q: Will Trump take the same position?

A: Yes, it’s likely he will. He has a much touted one trillion dollar infrastructure plan, and we are concerned about how he will go about this plan and promote it in the G20. A lot will depend upon who he appoints as his key representatives, particularly the new US Treasury Secretary and his personal representative, his G20 Sherpa.

Q: Do you think that Trump will make common cause with other G20 members in their infrastructure promotion efforts?

A: Yes, it’s very likely. It’s likely that Trump will consider joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Obama refused to join, but Trump reportedly will consider it. And we think that Trump will be a leader of the G20 Infrastructure Initiative. That concerns us because we don’t think that Trump’s infrastructure model is necessarily one to follow. It appears that rather than using public money to build water systems, bridges, and roads, he would give big tax breaks to investors and contractors. We’re concerned that gains could be privatized and losses could be socialized on a very large scale.

Q: That would be a concern. Now, will other G20 countries buy this approach?

A: I hope not. But other G20 leaders have an advantage in their approaches:  They believe, to one extent or another, that climate change is real. They realize that sixty percent of global greenhouse gases come from infrastructure, and that the stakes are very high for building low- and no-carbon infrastructure.

Q: Now, will Trump come around to this point of view?

A: He pledged in his campaign that he would cancel US membership in the Paris Agreement on climate change. Now he says that he will reconsider his position, and we hope that he does. He has also promised to exploit a new generation of fossil fuels, and we’re concerned about that. We’re hoping that, since he likes to make “America first”, he’ll want to become a market leader in renewable energies.

Q: Speaking of “America first”: Trump takes a radically different approach to trade than many Republicans and Democrats.

A: Indeed. The transpacific partnership, the TPP trade deal, died before Trump could kill it. Many G20 leaders have just paid lip service to multilateral agreements while cutting smaller bilateral or plurilateral agreements on the side. Now Trump has made it clear that he intends to favor bilateral agreements.

Q: Nancy, what does that mean for the G20?

A: It means that the G20 will be in chaos – for a while. And it’s likely that many G20 leaders will become more enthusiastic for the kind of bilateral deals that Trump will strike.

Q: What does that mean for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the TTIP?

A: It’s unlikely that Trump will breathe any life into TTIP. He is a fan of Brexit, and it’s likely that he will cut a bilateral deal with Britain and that other countries will follow.

Q: As you know, Trump’s election has shocked the world and many in the US, too. What would you say to people who are trying to understand  what the new president-elect should do?

A: They could take a look at Trump’s Contract with the American Voter. It spells out what Trump intends to do during his first one hundred days in office. And they can watch carefully to see the types of individuals that Trump appoints to his Cabinet. We’re very concerned about the contract, and about some of the appointments, and we feel like we will work with our allies as never before to protect and defend the democratic values that we’ve come to stand for.

Q: Is there a place for such a struggle in the G20 space?

A: Yes, it’s important that people become familiar with what’s called the Civil20, or C20. The C20 is working with civil society around the world to launch a platform that will debate and defend the rights of civil society. We invite watchers and listeners to contact us about this platform and join hands with us going forward.

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