BERLIN – European leaders said Thursday they are ready to defend the Paris climate accord and free trade when they face President Donald Trump at the Group of 20 summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe was "more determined than ever" to see the climate deal succeed.
The Trump administration's "America First" approach to trade has caused widespread concern internationally, as has its decision to pull out of the Paris accord. Trump announced the withdrawal shortly after returning from last month's Group of 7 summit in Italy.
Merkel told the German parliament that "we cannot expect easy talks in Hamburg" on climate issues when leaders of the G-20 global economic powers meet in the city July 7-8.
"The disagreement is obvious, and it would be dishonest to gloss over it," she said. "I won't do that, in any case."
Still, meeting later Thursday with European participants in the G-20, she sought to downplay prospects of an outright clash with Trump. She and French President Emmanuel Macron said there is agreement on issues such as fighting terrorism and they will seek joint solutions.
Trump announced June 1 he was pulling the U.S. from the Paris deal. The U.S. could try to rejoin the agreement under more favorable terms or work to establish "an entirely new transaction," Trump said.
After meeting the leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway and the European Union in Berlin, Merkel said they were "united" behind the climate accord.
Macron underlined the Europeans' "very strong commitment" to the Paris deal. He said he had "at least the hope, in any case, that one or another will be brought to reason and can follow us."
But Merkel stressed that "the United States of America is an important part of the G-20, and we will do everything to work together while not papering over differences."
The chancellor wasn't hesitant to demonstrate the scope of Europe's differences with the current U.S. administration over the Paris accord's goals for curbing carbon emissions and global warming.
In her speech to German lawmakers, Merkel said that "since the decision by the United States of America to leave the Paris climate accord, we are more determined than ever to lead it to success."
"The Paris agreement is irreversible and it is not negotiable," she said.
Later, though, Merkel brushed off a question about chances of G-20 members except Trump drawing up a statement on climate change.
"I don't want to participate in speculation today about 'what happens if,'" she said. "The message is that we want to find solutions together, even though we know that in some questions, for example the climate question, it is not very easy."
Macron said that "it is no use isolating a state."
"We do not share his view of things on this subject," he added, speaking about the climate accord. "But it is always preferable to make a joint declaration and leave open the opportunity to countries around the table to sign up in the medium term."
Macron has invited Trump to attend Bastille Day celebrations in Paris July 14. He stressed that "the relationship with the United States is a long-term one. It is a deep relationship in numerous areas which allows us today, despite everything, to share disagreements."
Merkel argued that the G-20 — a forum that rose to prominence in the wake of the global financial crisis — is needed more than ever because countries working together can change things far more effectively than with uncoordinated national policies.
"Anyone who thinks that they can solve the problems of this world with isolationism and protectionism is making an enormous mistake," she told lawmakers.
Merkel said she wants from the G-20 "a clear signal for free markets and against isolation, and a clear commitment to the multilateral trading system."
Hamburg is mounting a huge security operation to protect the summit in the heart of Germany's second-biggest city, which Merkel said was a "big challenge."
"We know that there will be protests, and that is more than legitimate in a democracy. But I hope ... that these protests will be peaceful."
The G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Also attending the summit will be the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Guinea, Senegal, Singapore and Vietnam.