G20 powers open two days of summit talks in crisis-hit Argentina on Friday after a stormy buildup dominated by US President Donald Trump’s consensus-bucking crusade to realign world trade.
Shortly before the summit kicks off, Trump’s “America First” charge will bear fruit with the signing in Buenos Aires of a successor to the North American free trade pact NAFTA.
The revamped accord, called the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), looks a lot like the one it replaces. But enough has been tweaked for Trump to declare victory on behalf of the US workers he claims were cheated by NAFTA.
Yet, underlining that the new deal may not be quite the game-changer he professes, the signing will be executed by senior trade negotiators from the three countries rather than their leaders attending the G20.
After imposing punishing tariffs on Chinese goods and threatening more to come in January, Trump also has China in his sights as he prepares to meet President Xi Jinping on the G20 margins.
Following the USMCA signing, and once Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri has opened the first of the summit’s two days, a mass protest is planned for central Buenos Aires Friday afternoon.
Argentines are grappling with soaring inflation and unemployment caused by an economic crisis, which has led to a deeply unpopular bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t have houses and don’t have work. They are not focusing on the people who have needs,” barber Ariel Villegas, 47, said at one protest Thursday outside the Argentine Congress building.
The government is vowing zero tolerance of violence as it hosts its biggest ever international gathering, and says it has won promises from the protest organizers to keep the streets calm