Things went about like you’d expect at the G20 on Friday as markets meander ahead of the only thing that really matters – Saturday’s sit-down between Trump and Xi Jinping.
“Weâ€™ll see what happens tomorrow, it will be a very exciting day”, Trump said during a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who, like Trump, has been accused of being an insufferable fascist. Trump told reporters he did not promise to delay additional tariffs on China. “No, I havenâ€™t promised, no. I think we have a very good chance of doing something”, he added. “Ultimately it will work out”.
Suffice to say not everything Trump says will “ultimately work out” ends up working out.
Xi took a couple pot shots at Trump in remarks to African leaders. China’s strongman decried what he called “bullying practices”, and chided Trump without mentioning him by name. “Any attempt to put oneâ€™s own interests first and undermine othersâ€™ will not win any popularity”.
During a meeting with Angela Merkel, Xi insisted China’s promise to open up is “not an empty” one.
â€œChina is confident that it will take its own path, do its own things well, peacefully coexist with the rest of the world and achieve win-win”, Xi said Friday.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He met Bob Lighthizer and Steve Mnuchin at the Imperial Hotel for more preliminary talks.
Trump and Modi both instructed their subordinates to sort out recent trade scuffles. Earlier this month, India moved ahead with long-planned retaliatory tariffs on US almonds, apples and various other items. Trump called the tariffs “unacceptable” this week, despite the fact that New Delhi waited a year before imposing them and only did so after the US yanked the country’s GSP status.
Trump teased “some very big trade deals” with India. He made similarly vacuous promises regarding Japan.â€œWe are also going to be announcing some very big trade transactions”, he said.â€œTheyâ€™re moving many plants, auto plants into the United States”.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was brought in from the cold, the Jamal Khashoggi episode apparently forgiven and forgotten, despite the gruesome 101-page report issued by Agnes Callamard, a special rapporteur for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The unelected (and, apparently, unaccountable) royal was front and center during the characteristically farcical “family photo”.
Theresa May took a picture with Vladimir Putin that suggested she was one errant comment away from challenging him to a fight. A bilateral between the two was not pleasant, according to a British government spokesman.
May â€œtold the president that there cannot be a normalization of our bilateral relationship until Russia stops the irresponsible and destabilizing activity that threatens the UK and its allies – including hostile interventions in other countries, disinformation and cyber attacks â€“ which undermine Russiaâ€™s standing in the world”, the UK said. “She was clear that the UK has irrefutable evidence that Russia was behind the [Salisbury] attack”.
As Bloomberg recounts, “May and Putin then sat opposite each other at a long table, with no other officials present except for one translator each”. Putin made a remark to May. â€œWe have a one-to-one first”, she replied.
The Trump-Putin meeting was, predictably, a farce. The White House says the two leaders discussed Iran, Syria and Venezuela, all countries whose leadership enjoy the protection of the Kremlin.
Asked by a reporter if he would tell Putin not to interfere with America’s democracy, Trump smiled, jokingly pointed at the Russian delegation and said “Don’t meddle in the election”. Everyone laughed.