The most anticipated annual G20 summit of world leaders has started in Japan’s Osaka.
At the top of the agenda is the ongoing trade war between China and the United States, the world’s two biggest economies.
Africa News24 (AN24) Understands that the bilateral talks between world leaders were the main order of business in Osaka amid a host of simmering tensions on trade and climate change.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened the meeting, which will be dominated by contentious discussions on trade, geopolitical tensions, and climate change.
The G20 is an international leaders’ forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union.
Collectively, the grouping represents more than 80 percent of the world’s economic output and two-thirds of its people. Its primary aim is to promote international financial stability.
And as the leaders headed into the first session, French President Emmanuel Macron leaned down to whisper something into Trump’s ear, covering his mouth for privacy as he did so.
The first session of the meeting is focused on the digital economy, with concerns about privacy and security on the agenda.
“Digitalisation has rapidly changed various aspects of our society and economy,” Abe said as he opened the session.“I’m happy to see the momentum to globally tackle the digital economy.”
But in a sign of the ongoing tensions likely to dominate talks, Trump appeared to make reference to US concerns about the security threat posed by Chinese telecoms firm Huawei.
As “we expand digital trade, we must also ensure the resilience and security of our 5G networks”, he said.
Trump’s administration has taken measures to ban Huawei, with China reportedly seeking an end to the restrictions as part of any resumption of talks on resolving the trade war.
The summit is being overshadowed by the trade war between the world’s top two economies, with hopes that Xi and Trump can reach a truce when they hold talks on Saturday on the sidelines of the summit.
‘A fantastic woman’
After his meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Modi, President Trump had a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he called “a fantastic person, a fantastic woman.”
Subjects discussed included Iran, Libya, supporting the economy of Ukraine, trade negotiations with China, and global trade standards more generally.
After the meeting, Prime Minister Abe greeted each of the G20 leaders one-by-one.
Trump’s ‘good cop, bad cop’ act
Mason Richey, a professor of international relations at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, tells Al Jazeera: “I think that Trump is going to be interested in playing up the positive side of the relationships that the US has with allies and strategic partners whether that be Japan, or whether that be NATO or whether that be India.
“And I think in some ways he’s perhaps playing good-cop-bad-cop with himself. He’s played bad cop with Japan and India on security issues and on trade issues. And now he’s a there playing up the positive side of the relationship, talking about how close the US relationship is with India and Japan.”