Germany heads up G20

Berlin (dpa) – Germany takes over the presidency of the Group of 20 leading economies on Thursday amid deepening global uncertainty and signs that the western alliance is facing one of its greatest challenges since World War II. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has set out a G20 agenda focusing on global trade and forging ahead with climate change goals while at the same time heading off the threat posed by a rise in populism and nationalism.

Under the motto of Shaping an Interconnected World, Merkel’s G20 also wants the group to turn its spotlight onto Africa and to continue the fight against tax havens while continuing to promote international market regulation.

This is the first time that Germany has headed up the G20, which represents more than 80 per cent of the world’s economic activity and comprises the most advanced economies as well as the leading emerging markets.

Merkel will be hoping that Berlin’s presidency will be a chance for her to demonstrate her skills on the world stage ahead of Germany’s national election next September.

Formed in 1999 as a forum for G20 finance ministers, the group was beefed up in 2008 as a gathering of world leaders to allow them to jointly tackle the world financial crisis.

Speaking in her weekly podcast on Saturday, Merkel waved off criticism of mega meetings such as the G20, insisting that the group continued to play a key role. “If we work alone, we will not solve the world’s problems,” Merkel said.

But Merkel’s G20 agenda could be hampered by the protectionist pledges of US president-elect Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Britain’s drive to exit the European Union has many mainstream politicians worried that a rising populist nationalist movement could also take root in Europe.

Trump has already indicated that he plans to pursue a different course on world affairs than outgoing President Barack Obama.

The buildup to the July summit of G20 leaders is also likely to coincide with British Prime Minister Theresa May formally launching Brexit moves.

Trump made rolling back global trade deals a central theme of his campaign for the presidency but has so far not spelled out a clear position on climate change.

Along with Brexit, his victory has underlined the rise of populist parties around the world, which have acted as lighting rods for frustration with the established international order.

Speaking on Wednesday at an event marking Berlin’s assumption of the G20 presidency, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned the group to guard against nationalism and isolation.

Echoing Merkel’s remarks, Schaeuble said global challenges needed global solutions. “The G20 is more important than ever,” he said.

One key question facing the German G20 presidency is likely to be what type of relationship Trump forges with another G20 leader, Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president will also be attending the group’s July summit in the German port city of Hamburg, which is to be chaired by Merkel.

Up until now, Putin has found himself very much on the sidelines of the international community following the Kremlin’s backing of rebels in eastern Ukraine and Moscow’s annexation in March 2014 of the Crimean peninsula, formerly part of Ukraine.

However, Trump praised Putin during the US election campaign and indicated he would like to work more closely with the Russian leader to bring an end to the conflict in Syria.

In the meantime, analysts see both the uncertainty unleashed by British negotiations to leave the EU and concerns about an unpredictable White House under Trump as raising the risks to the world’s economic outlook.

More information

To coincide with Germany’s taking over of the G20 presidency the official web site of the alliance at has been relaunched.

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