Angelo Wijaya

Jun 30, 2019

6 min read

Takeaways from G20 Summit 2019: Is this a foreign policy win for Trump?

While nothing is usual about Donald Trump, this year’s G20 Summit is nothing but usual — at least for those closely following Trump — until he left for South Korea.

Countries agreed to disagree on sensitive issues such as trade protectionism and commitment to fight climate change.

Before we jump to the discussion about what was going on about three hours ago in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, let us take a quick look back on what was going on in Osaka during the weekend.

US-China (Fair) Trade Deal back on track

The US and Chinese delegations bilateral meeting at G20 Summit 2019

After a pause in the trade negotiation that was caused by the gridlock from both sides — and also after the decoupling of Huawei — finally the US and China agreed to resume the trade talk.

Trump even agreed to let US companies to sell its products to China’s Huawei — for whatever back door deal they agreed on during the G20 negotiation.

During the negotiation China made clear that they demand the US to

  1. Agree on a fair and reciprocally beneficial trade.
  2. Eliminate additional tariff to Chinese products.
  3. Decide the purchase target for Chinese goods according to its real values.
  4. Refrain from changing the regulations for US companies in sharing their technology with their Chinese counterparts.
  5. Revoke the sanctions imposed to Huawei.

Whether or not progress in this trade talk is ever going to be materialized is still remain to be seen.

US-Russia warm rapport

The US and Russian delegations bilateral meeting at G20 Summit 2019

To put it mildly, there is nothing extraordinary from Trump’s meeting with Putin this time. Just like any other meetings with Putin, Trump has always been very friendly — something that previous US Presidents do not usually show to their Russian counterparts.

To put it to the extreme, Trump is not doing enough. Trump is being too friendly to the State Leader of a country that is alleged to have meddled in the democratic processes of one of the biggest democracies in the world.

Trump is discounting Putin a little bit too much, that he is now under heavy criticism by the media that he treated the Russian meddling in the US election as if it is a joke.

Many believe that Trump should not have said, “don’t meddle in the election, please” jokingly. And as a matter of fact, he shouldn’t have.

Where is Khashoggi?

Trump met with the Crown Prince and the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in the sidelines of G20 Summit 2019

Where is Khashoggi — not in the literal sense, but rather in the discussion between Trump and MBS?

Despite the fact that an independent UN team has found possible links from the missing Jamal Khashoggi to the Crown Prince and the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia MBS, the US has been relatively silent about it — and Trump has been stormed because of this silence.

The strategic importance of Saudi Arabia in its region’s most pressing issues such as Iran and Palestine may play a big role in Trump’s silence in this regard.

Trump even lauded MBS for doing “a great job” recently.

Whatever is going to happen in the future, Saudi’s strategic importance in the region and the role that it plays as a US ally in the region will weigh so heavily in the decision-making process by US officials in regards to the situation in the region and how the US will behave vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia.

Other meetings

Interestingly, Trump has other meetings that also need special attention in this occasion. Among those meetings are the meeting with Bolsonaro, Erdogan, and Abe-Modi.

Trump meets Brazil’s Trump
US-Turkey relationship was going through a bumpy road in the past few years
Trump meets Merkel in the sideline of G20 Summit 2019.

Merkel has been reportedly going through a declining health condition lately. Besides that, NATO, in which Germany and the US are part of, is facing a split in the issue of Iran. Besides that, France, one of the two largest powers in the European Union besides Germany, was pushing for the mention of G20 commitment to climate change in the communique, while Trump insisted otherwise.

Trump in one frame with Abe and Modi

Whether or not Trump is talking about the development of the Indo-Pacific with Abe and Modi, he really needs to be assured that Japan and India are on the same side as his.

ASEAN has just agreed on an ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). Whether or not this will bring significant impact on the Indo-Pacific region is remain to be seen.

One thing for sure, Australia’s Morison is nowhere to be seen in that frame. However, to tell whether the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) that is spearheaded by the US is dead is still too early.

This can be a dialogue between the three countries about the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), an Indo-Japanese initiative that tries to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Ivanka Trump’s G20 VIP seat, once again

Upon receiving heavy criticism after taking Donald Trump’s seat in 2017 G20 Summit, Ivanka Trump does not seem to have learnt a lesson to avoid being under fire for taking such a strategic spotlight in another G20 Summit.

In this year’s summit, however, Ivanka — with his husband, Jared Kushner as the Senior Presidential Advisor for Donald Trump — delivered a message about women empowerment.

She seems to have had a good time with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Kim-Trump Third (surprise) Summit

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in North Korea, about three hours ago

Trump once again made a history. After becoming the first sitting US President to have ever met a North Korean leader — and failed to conclude any deal that was reportedly due to domestic discomfort at home, he once again made a history by becoming the first ever sitting US President to ever step his feet on North Korean soil.

After tweeting on his favorite Twitter account that he was heading to South Korea after the G20 Summit in Japan that he would love to meet Kim Jong Un in the DMZ, Kim Jong Un finally fulfilled Trump’s request to meet in the DMZ — and even agreed to step into South Korean soil, and also met with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The latest development was, Trump invited Kim to visit him in the White House.

Whether or not a fruitful discussion and agreement can be reached is remain to be seen.

Trump and Kim in DMZ

One thing for sure, we now know that Trump’s foreign policy tactic is not completely disfunctional.