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Trump faces a hostile G20 as Merkel pushes climate change and he meets Mexico's president amid tensions over wall

July 6, 2017 10:50 PM
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President Donald Trump will be required to navigate more international opposition as the G20 summit gets down to business on Friday, as he spends his day on controversial issues including a border wall, climate change, and North Korea.

With angry street protests outside on the streets of Hamburg, Trump meets with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto Friday, where the border wall issue that loomed large in his campaign will get yet another airing.

Mexico's foreign ministry played down hopes for progress during the scheduled 30-minute meeting, which follows a cancelled January meeting amid tensions over the wall, which Trump insists the U.S. will make Mexico pay for.

'We have to put it in context and not have expectations that are unjustified,' said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.

Thing won't get any easier when Trump is face to face with a bevy of other foreign leaders following his trashing of the Paris climate change agreement.

Climate change is a hot issue inside and outside the summit. Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and G20 spouses will get a tour of the German Climate Computing Center on Friday. The idea for the climate stop came from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's husband, Joachim Sauer, a chemistry professor, Bloomberg News reported.

Trump also will be under pressure to demonstrate progress on North Korea after the nation's launch of an ICBM July 4. The president's tweets have been increasingly critical of China.

Top billing goes to Trump's high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered the US president a firm handshake on Thursday as they met in Hamburg for a bilateral summit, holding the pose for several seconds as cameras snapped around them to make sure the media captured the friendly gesture.

A meeting at the White House in March went awry when President Donald Trump missed several verbal and situational cues and did not offer Merkel his hand.

Merkel shot her hand out toward Trump today as they stood before a G20 backdrop at the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski so that it was clear what she wanted. He did not botch the greeting again.

The two leaders made small talk that was inaudible to reporters as photographers snapped pictures of them conversing. Merkel then led Trump away so that they could speak frankly about trade, climate change, and a host of other topics, including Russian aggression, behind closed doors.

Trump arrived in Germany just before the meet and greet for an intense two-day stretch at the G20 summit that will put his diplomatic prowess to the ultimate test as he sits down with Russia's president, a former KGB spy, for the first time.

Trump browbeat Russia earlier in the day, from Poland, for its 'destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran' and urged Vladimir Putin's government to join the US and its allies in the fight against violent extremism.

The meeting between Trump and Putin is the most anticipated of the bilateral talks on the American president's schedule. Sanctions, election meddling, the fighting in Syria and Russia's invasion of Ukraine are all on the table.

The meeting with Merkel this afternoon could also turn terse as they speak about Trump's dramatic exit from the international climate accord known as the Paris agreement shortly after he and Merkel were last together and trade relations.

A mishap on Trump's previous trip to Europe led to a mistranslation of his condemnation of the United States' trade deficit with Germany.

Word quickly spread that the US president had called the WWII opponent that is now an ally 'evil' when he really said that its trade practices were 'bad' for the U.S.

Germany is part of the European Union, which means that Trump cannot negotiate a trade agreement with Merkel directly. He cannot negotiate a new climate deal for the US with her unilaterally, either, but both topics will most certainly come up.

The fight against ISIS and North Korea's latest provocations are also top of mind for the US president, who delivered a hard-hitting speech today in Warsaw and took questions from the news media that touched on both of those topics.

Trump's sit-down with Merkel is an opportunity for him to turn around relations with the ally. The partnership has shown repeated signs of strain in the six months since Trump assumed office.

During a G7 meeting in Brussels in May, Trump blasted Germany over its trade surplus with the United States.

'The Germans are very, very bad,' Trump said, in remarks highlighted by German magazine Der Spiegel. 'Look at the millions of cars they're selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,' Trump continued, neglecting to mention substantial German investment in the U.S., such as a major BMW plant in Spartanburg, S.C.

Trump previously said Merkel was 'ruining' Germany by letting in too many refugees. Back in March, when Trump hosted Merkel at the White House, the Germany chancellor said she was representing not just her country but European integration. 'I am saying it in the United States, also here in Washington in my talks with the president,' she said.

During an Oval Office photo-op then, Trump and Merkel didn't shake hands. He joked later, during a joint presser, that they have at least 'something in common, perhaps,' as he claimed again that Barack Obama spied on him. His comment was met with nervous laughter in the room as Merkel did a double take then looked down at and shuffled her note cards on the podium.

Trump and Merkel stared each other down on Thursday, then shook hands at the top of their encounter that served as the official kickoff to Trump's meetings at the G20.

The president's daughter Ivanka, who has become something of a friend of Merkel's, was also seen entering Hotel Atlantic Kempinski with the US delegation.

A senior advisor at the White House, Ivanka, who is far more liberal than her president father, may help cooler heads to prevail in today's talk with Merkel, who's currently up for reelection. Merkel's party recently removed the word 'friend' from a description of its relationship with the US in campaign materials.

Trump's meeting with Putin is largely an unknown. The White House said last week that Trump will talk to his foreign counterpart about 'whatever' he wants and would not commit to a discussion about Russia's violation of voting systems in at least 21 states before the president's surprise victory in the November election.

'To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes and cyber warfare, we must adapt our lives to compete effectively in new ways and on all new battlefields,' he said in a direct reference to Moscow's meddling.

Trump said at a news conference in Poland, where he was asked about Russia that Putin's government 'could have' interfered with the 2016 US presidential election which saw him take victory over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

He added, however, that he's not totally convinced that Russia was the sole meddler in the election, contrasting claims from US intelligence agencies who said the effort was directed by Putin and emanated from Moscow.

He added that US intelligence agencies have made mistakes in the past, so 'nobody really knows for sure'.

The president sought to redirect any scrutiny toward his predecessor, Barack Obama, accusing him of allowing Moscow to meddle on his watch.

Though the Obama administration warned Russia publicly and privately before Election Day to stop interfering, questions have since been raised about whether he acted aggressively enough to stop the threat.

Trump said the CIA had informed Obama about the hacking months before the election but added that 'mistakes have been made.'.

Speaking to thousands of cheering Poles later, Trump called their nation 'the geographic heart of Europe' and praising their countrymen for shaking off both Nazi oppressors and Russian occupiers in the last century.

Trump delivered his address in Krasinski Square, at the foot of a statue commemorating the 1944 Polish uprising against German occupiers. He and first lady Melania Trump laid a wreath at its base.

Trump had earlier met the Polish president and warned that the future of the West is in doubt.

'The Polish experience reminds us - the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail,' Trump said.

'Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken,' he said.

The president urged European nations to commit more of their money to NATO, as he said the organization's 'Article 5' commitment to mutual defense is an ironclad guarantee.

At a press conference following his private talks with Andrzej Duda, Trump said North Korea would face 'consequences' for its intercontinental ballistic missile test.

Trump's whirlwind visit to Warsaw came just before a meeting with Putin. He will travel next to Germany for Friday and Saturday's G20 summit, where he will sit down for talks with the Russian leader for the first time since taking office.

Trump's appearance alongside the Polish president will go down badly in Russia.

Trump's visit to Warsaw was coordinated with the Three Seas Initiative, which is a new 12-nation trade and economic bloc organized in part to limit Russia's power, especially in ways that diminish its dominance in the region's energy markets.

North Korea's ballistic missile test the day the day before Trump left the US moved the threat posed by Kim Jong-un's illicit nuclear activity up to the top of the American president's list of shared threats.

At his joint press conference with Duda, Trump called on the global community to ensure there are 'consequences' for Pyongyang's belligerence and warned that he is considering a 'severe' response.

'I call on all nations to confront this global threat and publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences for their very, very bad behavior,' he declared.

Trump later said that he was working with Poland on addressing threats from Russia and reiterated his calls for NATO members to meet their financial obligations.

Trump said that 'as a result' of his administration's pushing, 'billions of dollars' have begun to pour into NATO.

'To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,' he said, checking an important box in his remarks for European leaders who have worried about that his pay up, or else, warnings meant the US was rethinking its involvement in the international organization.

He told the Polish people, 'You were supported in that victory over communism by a strong alliance of free nations in the West that defied tyranny. Now, among the most committed members of the NATO Alliance, Poland has resumed its place as a leading nation of a Europe that is strong, whole, and free.

Trump's ongoing media war has tended to overshadow talk of his domestic and foreign agendas, a condition he could ill afford as he launched his second diplomacy tour in six weeks.

He took a question Thursday about a domestic tempest that developed this week over a video clip he tweeted on Sunday, depicting himself body-slamming a pro-wrestling mogul whose face was superimposed with CNN's logo.

CNN quickly condemned the tweet and assigned a reporter to find out where the viral meme originated.

By Thursday the network was under fire for allegedly threatening to reveal the name of a person it said created the video.

But CNN appears to have gotten it wrong, using the wrong version of the doctored footage as the basis for their interview with the unnamed man.

'I think what CNN did is unfortunate for them,' Trump said at the press conference. 'As you know they have some pretty serious problems.

Trump then turned to Duda and asked, 'Do you have that also, Mr President?', to which Duda shrugged.

'What CNN did - and what others did, NBC is equally as bad despite the fact that I made them a fortune with The Apprentice but they forgot that,' Trump said. 'What I will say is that CNN has really taken it too seriously and I think they've hurt themselves very badly, very, very badly.

'And what we want to see in the United States is honest, beautiful, free, but honest press. We want to see fair press.

Following the press conference, Trump attended a meeting of the Three Seas Initiative.

The group includes leaders of the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas nations and aims to expand and modernize energy and trade with the goal of reducing the region's dependence on Russian energy.

While at the meeting, Trump pledged that the United States will never use energy to coerce eastern and central European nations, adding that the United States won't allow other nations to coerce them either.

Trump said he's proud that the region is benefiting from US energy supplies. Poland received a first shipment of liquefied natural gas from the United States last month.

Trump noted the region's special significance to him. His wife, Melania, is a native of Slovenia, which belongs to the group.

He then claimed that everyone is benefiting from the thriving US economy except for him.

Trump gave his two adult sons and a senior executive control of his global real estate, property management and marketing empire when he took office in January. But Trump did not divest his businesses.

Instead he placed his financial assets in a trust that he can seize control of at any time.


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