World leaders at Group of 20 Summit in Osaka, Japan - Photo: AP

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – World leaders at Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in Japan are clashing over the values that have served for decades as the foundation of their cooperation as they face calls to fend off threats to economic growth.

“A free and open economy is the basis for peace and prosperity,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his counterparts in opening the two-day G-20 meeting, AP reported on Friday (06/28), that comes as leaders grapple with profound tensions over trade, globalization and the collapsing nuclear deal with Iran.

The United States (US) President Donald Trump has said that trade was his top priority, as China’s president Xi Jinping warned against rising protectionism and India, Japan and Russia defended multilateral trade rules.

Trump, who is holding a series of meetings on the sidelines with world leaders, including Japan’s Shinzo Abe and India’s Narendra Modi, said he saw US trade prospects improving, days after criticizing the US-Japan security treaty and demanding that New Delhi withdraw retaliatory tariffs.

“I think we’re going to have some very big things to announce. Very big trade deal. We’re doing some very big things with India in terms of trade, in terms of manufacturing,” Trump said at the start of talks with the Indian prime minister.

Trump, set to hold a high-profile meeting on trade with Xi on Saturday, also made a push to discuss US concerns about Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei at his meetings. Washington has pressed its allies to shun Huawei in their fifth generation (5G), networks on security grounds, and has also suggested it could be a factor in a trade deal with Xi.

“We actually sell Huawei many of its parts,” Trump said at his meeting with Modi. “So we’re going to be discussing that and also how India fits in. And we’ll be discussing Huawei.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker flagged the shadow cast by the US-China trade feud. “The trade relations between China and the United States are difficult, they are contributing to the slowdown of the global economy,” he told a news conference.

Xi also warned about the protectionist steps he said some developed countries were taking. “All this is destroying the global trade order. This also impacts common interests of our countries, overshadows the peace and stability worldwide,” Xi told a gathering of leaders of the BRICS grouping of nations on the sidelines of the G20 meet.

Modi at the same meeting called for a focus on reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he called efforts to destroy the Geneva-based body.

“We consider counter-productive any attempts to destroy WTO or to lower its role,” Putin said. The situation of the global economy was worrying as global trade was feeling the effect of protectionism and politically motivated restrictions, he added.

Trump, who often castigates trading partners on Twitter and in his raucous political rallies, put a positive spin on trade developments with Japan.

“I appreciate the fact that you’re sending many automobile companies into Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and North Carolina,” Trump told Abe, referring to US states critical to his effort to win re-election next year.

Trump said the two leaders would also discuss Ja purchases of US military equipment, although a Japanese official said later the topic did not come up. Tokyo and Washington are engaged in difficult trade talks as Trump’s administration seeks to lower the US trade deficit. Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were to meet later in Osaka.

Abe welcomed Trump’s visit, calling their frequent meetings proof of the strong US-Japan alliance. He later urged G20 leaders to send a strong message in support of free and fair trade, warning that trade and geopolitical tensions were rising and downside risks to the global economy prevailed.

Under the decades-old US-Japan security treaty, Washington has committed to defending Japan, which renounced the right to wage war after its defeat in World War Two. Japan in return provides military bases that Washington uses to project power deep into Asia.

Trump and Abe reaffirmed their commitment Friday to the US-Japan coordination on shared security challenges including on Iran, the White House said, just days after the US president called on Japan to protect its own ships in the Strait of Hormuz.

“They reaffirmed their commitment to US-Japan coordination on shared security challenges, including on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran,” the White House said following a meeting between two leaders.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: