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From Trump's Inauguration to the G20 Hamburg Summit

Brittaney Warren, G20 Research Group
January 25, 2017

On January 20, 2017, at 12:00 p.m, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Trump's first speech as president was an "America first" one, taking the same tone as his campaign speeches. He began with reference to his campaign promise to drain the swamp, stating that this inauguration ceremony was "special" as it marked the beginning of the transfer of power from Washington back into the hands of the "righteous" American people. He appealed to the working poor and floundering middle class, attributing the unequal distribution of wealth and disparity's accompanying hardships to political greed — "the establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country," a statement Trump's core constituency received with cheers and applause. Donald Trump's win is the American people's win as this day "will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of [America] again."

How will Trump transfer power back to the American people and meet their demands? According to Trump's inauguration speech: by addressing the education system's failures; tackling street crimes perpetrated by drug traffickers, users and gangs; creating jobs that benefit American workers via protectionist policies and increased infrastructure investments at home; and ensuring national security by "eradicat[ing] [ISIS] completely from the face of the earth." Notably absent from the speech was any direct mention of Mexico or the wall it will reimburse America for; rather there was a foreshadowing of anti-immigration policies to come with phrases such as "we will bring back our borders" and "we will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American."

This ambitious plan echoes Trump's election platform, the "Contract with the American Voter," complete with a dotted line to sign. On education (related to labour and employment), Trump promised to expand vocational and technical education, to make two- and four-year college programs more affordable, but also to reduce education spending overall. On crime, Trump promised to increase funding for law enforcement and to create a task force on violent crime and drugs. On national security, Trump promised to increase military spending, with no specific mention of terrorism. On immigration, Trump promised, now infamously, to build a wall dividing Mexico and the U.S., have Mexico pay for the wall and impose harsher sentences for immigrants who re-enter the U.S. illegally after deportation. Putting America first, however, extends beyond America's immediate borders. Trump's contractual promises also included withdrawing from international free trade deals, notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and pulling out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change while accelerating production of "clean" coal.

In light of these promises to withdraw from international agreements and given that the U.S. has caught the spread of protectionism, many wonder if Trump's America will continue to comply with its international obligations. It is difficult to identify any alignment between Trump's inauguration rhetoric and the objectives of the international institutions the U.S. has both worked through and helped to create. It leads to the question of whether U.S. compliance with the commitments made through those institutions will lessen. This includes those made at the G20, whose next meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7-8, 2017, will be the first G20 summit President Trump will attend. A careful comparison of the commitments made in the G20 Leaders' Communiqué at the Hangzhou Summit in China on September 4-5, 2016, with President Trump's inaugural priorities shows more divergence than parallels.

At Hangzhou, G20 leaders made 213 collective, politically binding, future-oriented commitments, each falling into an issue-specific category such as trade, macroeconomics, terrorism and climate change. For comparison, the new U.S. president's priorities were identified and assigned a corresponding issue area. These priorities were then scored as fully matched (+1), partially matched (0) or not matched (−1) with the 213 commitments G20 leaders made at Hangzhou (see Appendix A).

On trade, the G20 made 22 commitments at Hangzhou. The first stated that the G20 "will work harder to build an open world economy, reject protectionism and promote global trade and investment." These values of openness and cooperation were reflected in all 22 trade commitments. On financial regulation, the G20 made 17 commitments. The Hangzhou declaration stated that "we cannot afford to see the gains made since 2009 in [regard to global imbalances] disappear."

Trump's priorities on trade include renegotiating or withdrawing from international free trade agreements and labelling China a currency manipulator. On financial regulation, Trump has threatened to revoke the Dodd Frank Act, which helped stabilize the aftershocks of the 2008 American-led global financial crisis. U.S.-G20 global trade and financial stability priorities do not match, suggesting U.S. compliance with these types of commitments will decline.

On climate change, U.S. and G20 priorities also no longer align. They were assigned a −1 score. Although the G20 typically does not make a high number of climate change commitments at its summits, usually preferring to work through and support the United Nations system on this issue, it does recognize the science behind climate change and understands that the issue requires urgent action. On the related issue of energy, the G20 often makes commitments to diversify the energy mix (i.e., increase clean and renewable energy) and has reiterated its commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies every summit since 2009. Promoting sustainable development, particularly through international agreements such as the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals or 2030 Agenda, is also a regular feature in G20 deliberations. At Hangzhou, two commitments were made on climate change, including to join the Paris Agreement. Eight were made on energy.

On these issues, Donald Trump's priorities include accelerating fossil fuel production, including coal; cancelling climate financing to the UN; and pulling out of the Paris Agreement. He has already begun by filling his cabinet with climate change deniers and issuing an executive order to effectively ensure the Dakota Access Pipeline is built, a move that not only violates the sovereignty of the Sioux Nation but also the Clean Water Act. On the day of his inauguration, all references to climate change were removed from the White House website.

Three of Donald Trump's priorities, however, do match specific G20 commitments. These predictably include business-related ones: leveraging public-private partnerships, expanding vocational and technical training, and increasing infrastructure investments. At Hangzhou the G20 made eight commitments on infrastructure, an issue Trump highlighted in his inauguration speech. However, as the G20 is a global institution, its infrastructure commitments are crafted in the global context. They mostly include supporting infrastructure projects through multilateral development banks or with the goal of moving forward with the new industrial revolution and supporting (sustainable) development in the global South. Given Trump's America-first vision, and no expressed interest in developing countries' growth, the match on infrastructure is only partial and weak. The proposed infrastructure projects primarily include ones to support dirty energy expansion, which contradicts the G20's climate change, clean energy and sustainability commitments.

On terrorism, the G20 made three specific commitments at Hangzhou. The G20 reaffirmed its members' solidarity in the fight against terrorism, and agreed to exchange information and tackle the source of terrorist financing. Donald Trump, however, only made sweeping statements that he will "eradicate ISIS" and suspend immigration to the United States from "terror-prone regions."

In all, none of the 20 priorities in the president's inaugural speech fully match the commitments G20 leaders made at Hangzhou. Seven somewhat matched. The partially matched U.S. priorities addressed issues that were also addressed by the G20, but did not receive a score of +1 due to a significant difference in the means through which the goal was set to be achieved or the absence of a specific plan.

Ten of Trump's priorities were assigned a score of −1, because they negate the G20's commitments or stated values (namely openness, inclusiveness and innovation). These include priorities on trade, climate change, migrants/refugees and health. Trump's promise to increase military spending was assigned a score of −1 because the G20 did not make any comparable commitments on peace and security at Hangzhou, an issue falling more in the purview of the G7. One of Trump's priorities — to drain the so-called swamp — could be matched with the G20's commitments on tackling crime and corruption. However, with Trump's corporate-based cabinet, this promise is already in doubt.

Additionally, none of the 19 priority commitments being assessed by the G20 Research Group for compliance with the G20 Hangzhou Summit match Trump's priorities (see Appendix B).

In the coming months Trump will have a chance to learn how the plurilateral summit system works, starting when he meets with his G7 counterparts in Taormina, Sicily, on May 26-27, 2017. Here Trump is expected to focus narrowly on the issues that can be most exploited for his own benefit. He may have a better idea of how to do so at the G20 summit in July. This will be a challenge for the G20 as a whole. Leaders acting in their own countries' interests is a common feature of the forum, but the informal G20 summit club has been most useful when its leaders can cooperate and come to a consensus of mutual, global benefit. U.S. continued compliance with its international institutional commitments may therefore well depend on whether civil society and grassroots movements can hold Trump to account, and on whether his G20 colleagues can exert enough peer pressure to counterbalance the inaugural priorities he proclaims at home.

The task will begin this week, when the leader of the United Kingdom, then the leaders of Mexico and Canada, fly to the United States to meet Trump one on one.

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Appendix A: Summary of U.S. Priorities and Match with G20 Hangzhou Commitments


Issue area

Full match

Partial match

No match

Renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement





Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership





Label China a currency manipulator

Macroeconomics, trade, financial stability




Accelerate shale, oil, natural gas, and clean coal production, including approving Keystone

Development, climate change




Cancel climate financing to the United Nations, redirect money to U.S. water and environmental infrastructure

Climate change




Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by Obama*

Migration/refugees, climate change




Cancel federal funding to sanctuary cities; remove two million criminal illegal immigrants and cancel visas to foreign countries that won't take them back;

Migration/refugees, terrorism




suspend immigration from terror-prone regions; eradicate ISIS





Tax reductions to create 25 million new jobs: 35% tax cut for middle-class family with two kids; 20% tax cut for businesses; trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10% rate

Macroeconomic policy – fiscal stimulus




Leverage public-private partnerships and private investments through tax incentives

Macroeconomic policy – fiscal stimulus




Reduce education spending; end Common Core





expand vocational and technical education; make two and four year college more affordable

Education/Labour and Employment




Repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act; replace with Health Savings Accounts (ability to buy insurance across state lines); speed the approval of drugs by cutting red tape at the Food and Drug Administration





Allow further tax deductions for child and eldercare; incentivize employers to provide on-site childcare services

Social policy, fiscal stimulus




Build a wall and have Mexico reimburse cost; harsher sentences for illegally re-entering U.S. after deportation





Revoke Dodd Frank

Financial regulation




Increase military spending; increase access to healthcare for veterans

Peace and security, health




Protect infrastructure from cyber-attack

Infrastructure, information communications and technologies – cyber security




Build infrastructure at home





Drain the swamp

Crime and corruption




Note: Priorities were identified from Donald Trump's presidential inauguration speech on January 20, 2017, Donald Trump's Contract with the American Voter and media reports.
*Former president Barack Obama's key executive actions include protecting child immigrants from deportation, same-sex marriage, gun violence and climate change.

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Appendix B: Hangzhou Priority Commitments Not Matched to U.S. Priorities

2016-6: We are determined to use all policy tools — monetary, fiscal and structural — individually and collectively to achieve our goal of strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth. (Issue-Area: Macroeconomic Policy)

2016-18: To achieve innovation-driven growth and the creation of innovative ecosystems, we support dialogue and cooperation on innovation, which covers a wide range of domains with science and technology innovation at its core. (Issue-Area: ICT)

2016-23: We support effort to promote voluntary knowledge diffusion and technology transfer on mutually agreed terms and conditions. (Issue-Area: ICT)

2016-53: To this end, we remain committed to finalizing remaining critical elements of the regulatory framework and to the timely, full and consistent implementation of the agreed financial sector reform agenda, including Basel III and the total-loss-absorbing-capacity (TLAC) standard as well as effective cross-border resolution regimes. (Catalyst: Specified Agent) (Issue-Area: IFI Reform)

2016-63: We will continue our support for international tax cooperation to achieve a globally fair and modern international tax system and to foster growth, including advancing on-going cooperation on base erosion and profits shifting (BEPS) (Issue-Area: International Taxation)

2016-65: [We will continue our support for international tax cooperation to achieve a globally fair and modern international tax system and to foster growth, including advancing] tax capacity-building of developing countries and tax policies to promote growth and tax certainty. (Issue-Area: International Taxation)

2016-76: We endorse the 2017-2018 G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan to improve public and private sector transparency and integrity, implementing our stance of zero tolerance against corruption, zero loopholes in our institutions and zero barriers in our actions. (Issue-Area: Crime and Corruption)

2016-79: We encourage members to significantly improve energy efficiency based on the specific needs and national circumstances of each member (Issue-Area: Energy)

2016-83: We also reaffirm our commitment to rationalize and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption over the medium term, recognizing the need to support the poor. (Issue-Area: Energy)

2016-98: We extend our commitments to standstill and rollback of protectionist measures till the end of 2018, reaffirm our determination to deliver on them (Issue-Area: Trade)

2016-100: We endorse the G20 Strategy for Global Trade Growth, under which the G20 will lead by example to lower trade costs (Issue-Area: Trade)

2016-104: [We endorse the G20 Strategy for Global Trade Growth, under which the G20 will lead by example to] promote e-commerce development (Issue-Area: Trade)

2016-106: We endorse the G20 Guiding Principles for Global Investment Policymaking, which will help foster an open, transparent and conductive global policy environment for investment. (Issue-Area: Investment)

2016-112: We commit to contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by setting an example through bold, transformative collective and intended national actions in a wide range of areas. (Issue-Area: Development)

2016-120: We support the effective implementation of the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance

2016-125: We will further develop the G20 employment plans in 2017 to address these commitments and monitor progress in a systemic and transparent manner in achieving the G20 goals especially on youth employment and female labor participation. (Catalyst: Self-Monitoring) (Issue-Area: Labour and Employment)

2016-130: We commit to complete our respective domestic procedures in order to join the Paris Agreement as soon as our national procedures allow. (Catalyst: International Law) (Issue-Area: Climate Change)

2016-132: The G20 will continue to address forced displacement in 2017 with a view to developing concrete actions. (Issue-Area: Migration and Refugees)

2016-136: In confronting terrorism, we remain committed to effectively exchanging information, freezing terrorist assets, and criminalizing terrorist financing. (Issue-Area: Terrorism)

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Brittaney WarrenBrittaney Warren is a researcher with the G7 and G8 Research Group, the G20 Research Group and the BRICS Research Group, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She has worked in Spain and in Peru where she conducted field research on a sustainable development project with women living in extreme poverty. She has conducted research on the compliance of CARICOM members with their summit commitments on non-communicable diseases. Brittaney leads the social media strategy and marketing program for the G7 and G20 Research Groups' books and works on climate change, and was the lead researcher on an e-book project on "Delivering Sustainable Energy Access." Follow her at @brittaneywarren.


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