Prime Minister Erna Solberg was among the leaders of countries invited to the G20 Summit in Hamburg this weekend. That gives her a chance to put forth issues that the Norwegian government wants to promote at the summit attended by leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies. There was no lack of demands before she left over what those issues should be, especially if Solberg gets an opportunity to speak directly with the new US president, Donald Trump.
Reversing climate change and ensuring free trade topped the lists. Solberg herself told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) last week that she wanted to stress the importance of international trade agreements to Trump. In an official statement on her plans for her G20 participation, she claimed that the “the world needs more global leadership to solve the biggest global challenges.”
They include terrorism, migration, the climate and international trade, in her opinion. “We need a common agenda and more cooperation,” stated Solberg, who leads Norway’s Conservative Party. Finance Minister Siv Jensen of the even more conservative Progress Party was to join Solberg in Hamburg for the G20 meetings.
“The countries meeting at this forum have huge responsibility, and good opportunities, to contribute towards the world moving in the right direction,” Jensen said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s invitation for Norway to participate as a guest propelled Norwegian government ministries into action regarding Norway’s positions on such topics as finance, agriculture, labour issues and digitalization.
Disagreement over ‘the right direction’
The biggest challengethis weekend, though, is getting G20 members to agree on what’s the “right direction.” Commentators have been claiming during the past week that the world’s leaders haven’t been caught in such disagreements as they are now for a very long time. Many also claim the new president of the US is no longer the world’s leader, because Trump stands alone on the important issues of climate change and international trade. While most of the world’s biggest countries including China appear committed to tackling climate change and engaging in free trade, Trump wants to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on halting climate change and he’s pulled the US out of major trade deals. Under Trump, the US can drift towards protectionism instead.
“We have lived in a world that has been quite stable and, to a large degree, steered by the US,” Henrik Thune, a director of the NOREF International Center for Conflict Resolution, told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. “What we’re seeing now is a pull-back of American power. It’s not just about Trump, but his personality and politics create extra uncertainty and unease.” There was, at least, relief in Norway on Thursday when Trump finally stated publicly, while speaking in Warsaw, that his administration supports NATO’s “all for one and one for all” defense policy.
A growing trend by countries from China to the US to put their own interests ahead of international interests, however, is also a threat to global cooperation. Norway has lately shown itself to be guilty of the same, putting its economic interests ahead of promoting democracy and human rights, for example, in the recent difficult situation around the terminally ill Chinese dissdent Liu Xiaobo. Norway has also opted to finance rainforest preservation and carbon emission cuts in other countries instead of cutting back on its own oil and gas industry at home.
Climate was nonetheless high on the list of issues that Norwegian officials think Solberg needed to stress at the G20, and not least to Trump. “Trump seems to like straight talking, so she (Solberg) can begin by saying, ‘Hi, have you realized how urgent this (the need to cut emissions) is?’,” suggested Ingrid Lomeide, environmental leader of WWF in Norway. The climate crisis, Lomeide added, also is something the world’s financiers need to address, in order to avoid another finance crisis.
“Climate challenges are enormous and global,” agreed the head of Norway’s national employers’ organization NHO, Kristin Skogen Lund. “The world needs the US’ leader to lead the way,” she added, urging Solberg to let Trump know that he should keep the US in the Paris Agreement. Lund, however, thinks free trade is even more important: “Trump has to understand that free trade brings people out of poverty, and that protectionism is not the way to go.”
Lund’s counterpart at Norway’s largest trade union confederation, LO, had some other suggestions for Solberg. Hans-Christian Gabrielsen, LO’s newly elected secretary general, urged Solberg to stress Norway’s important model for regulating labour and workplace issues. “The world has looked to the Nordic countries because we have shown that it’s not only possible to combine economic growth and competitiveness with widespread welfare and economic equality, it’s also desirable,” Gabrielsen wrote in newspaper Dagsavisen this week.
Anine Kierulf of Norway’s national institution for human rights cautioned, though, Trump likely wouldn’t respond well to anyone pointing fingers at him. “Instead of finger-pointing politics,” Kierulf told Dagsavisen, “Solberg can try ‘carrot politics,'” to show what the US can get out of international cooperation and free trade.
No bilateral talks but ‘surely a short conversation’
Solberg got the message earlier this week that there would be no chance of a bilateral meeting with Trump, but “there will surely be an opportunity for a short conversation,” she told NRK. And then she’d stress free trade. Solberg has already met Trump, at the NATO Summit in Brussels at the end of May.
Solberg had a busy schedule after arriving in Hamburg on Thursday, delivering speeches at a pre-summit meeting of the Global Citizen Education Initiative and at the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in Hamburg. She looked forward to chat with several of the G20 leaders at the summit and had a bilateral meeting scheduled with the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.
The G20 summit is described as the “central forum for international cooperation on financial and economic questions.” Meetings have been held annually since 2008, with the heads of state and governments of the G20 traditionally addressing issues relating to world economic growth, international trade and regulation of financial markets.
The G20 is made up of the EU and 19 countries with the world’s largest economies. They include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sout Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US. It’s been pointed out that if the Nordic countries would be viewed together, they’d make up the world’s 12th-largest economy, with Norway’s wealth from its oil industry playing a leading role.