World Leaders Attend the G20 in Osaka Amid Global Tensions

Rivals, allies, friends, and neighbors: The world’s largest economies are in a relationship and it's complicated.

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President Donald J. Trump participates in a group photo during G20 Cultural Program at the Osaka Geihinkan with fellow leaders attending G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

It may have been all smiles on the surface as world leaders converged in Japan this week for the 2109 G20, but beneath the surface tensions were and remain as high as the record breaking temperatures reported today in France.

Half a world away, U.S. President Donald Trump’s political rivals battled each other to replace him in 2020; tensions with Iran continued to spike in the wake of a rash of oil tanker sabotage linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard; Europe is experiencing a dangerous heatwave.

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President Donald J. Trump attends a working luncheon on the Global Economy, Trade, and Investment at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Behind the handshakes and smiles, the heads of the world’s largest economies have points of major and minor contention simmering between them. Not least of which, is the diplomatically unpredictable behavior of Donald Trump.

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President Donald J. Trump speaks with President Mauricio Macri of Argentina during a working luncheon on the Global Economy, Trade, and Investment at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

One of the most serious issues up for debate during this year’s G20 is the environment.

More specifically, world leaders are challenged in mitigating a solution between countries who do not agree on the problem, or how to fix it. Nevertheless, some world leaders, like French President Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are determined reach an accord about climate change.

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President Donald J. Trump attends a working luncheon on the Global Economy, Trade, and Investment at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The relationship between the U.S. and Russia, a strained one at the best of times, seemed a littler easier. As Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump participated in bi-lateral meetings, they seemed determined to put the 2016 election, and allegations of Russian meddling which Putin has repeatedly denied, behind them.

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President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“You know he denies it, totally. How many times can you get someone to deny something?” — U.S. President Donald Trump, on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

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President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The U.S. press was not amused with Trump’s joke to Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election, please.” For voters in the U.S., especially those who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, for U.S. Democrats and perhaps especially those in the press, Russian interference the 2016 U.S. election is not a laughing matter.

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President Donald J. Trump, seated next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, listens as China’s President Xi Jinping, right, delivers remarks at the G20 Leaders Special Event on the Digital Economy at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered some good news to American farmers, and many other industries in both China and the U.S., with the announcement that a trade-war cease fire has been declared, with trade talks to resume forthwith. Both leaders were optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement.

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President Donald J. Trump speaks with President Mauricio Macri of Argentina during a working luncheon on the Global Economy, Trade, and Investment at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“One basic fact remains unchanged: China and the United States both benefit from cooperation and lose in confrontation. Cooperation and dialogue are better than friction and confrontation.”- President Xi Jinping

Trump, for his part was equally positive in his remarks about resuming U.S. trade negotiations with China. For those hurt by the spate of recent tariffs this is the best news since negotiations between the two countries broke down seven weeks ago.

“We discussed a lot of things, and we’re right back on track.” — U.S. President Donald Trump

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President Donald J. Trump talks with President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the leaders lounge at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
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President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
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President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
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President Donald J. Trump participates in a trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
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President Donald J. Trump, joined by members of the U.S. and Japan delegations, participates in a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
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President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

As world leaders continue the G20 summit, the world will be watching with perhaps higher expectations than usual. It is possible that the stakes have never been higher. And voting members of the public are determined to see their priorities reflected in their leadership.

The G20 is a test. Test results will be handed back on election day.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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