President Donald Trump will arrive in Argentina on Thursday evening with a packed agenda heavily focused on legacy-shaping goals: winning his China trade war, signing a replacement for the NAFTA trade pact, managing fallout from the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and baring his teeth following Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian navy vessels.
The eyes of the world and the heavy weight of diplomatic pressure will be on the president during the G20 summit, and face-time during Trump’s 48 hours in Buenos Aires will be precious. Trump announced in a tweet an hour after leaving Washington that he had already canceled his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The official meetings convene Friday, but in the crowded hallways of the Costa Salguero, run-ins and what the State Department calls planned ‘pull-asides’ routinely happen. And President Trump is known for going off-script.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at Joint Base Andrews on Thursday morning to leave for Argentina
President Trump already dropped one bombshell before arriving in Buenos Aires – he cancelled his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin
The president already dropped one bombshell before Air Force One landed when canceled a scheduled sit down with Putin, citing the seizure of three Ukrainian ships by Russian military forces.
The sudden cancellation came an hour after he told reporters at the White House the meeting was on as he left to board Air Force One – only to tweet its cancelation from the presidential plane.
But his sit down with his Russian counterpart would come with shadows: Saturday’s scheduled meeting would have happened a few days after the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress about his business talks with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
The president could have been placed in the politically uncomfortable situation of being pictured next to Putin as more questions arise about Moscow’s role in the 2016 election and international outage grows about their actions against the Ukraine.
Trump brushed aside Cohen’s plea as he left the White House to travel here but observers will be watching for any affect on the president’s mood, particularly as he sits down for crucial trade talks with China.
The president is scheduled to have dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday night amid a trade war between the economic power houses.
It’s the last meeting on Trump’s agenda but the most important.
Also hovering over the president’s time here is the question of will he or won’t he speak with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman if they happen to cross paths while they are both on the ground here.
Trump has expressed a willingness to talk to the prince, who he has defended from allegations of ordering the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump has expressed a willingness to talk to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman but said no meetings had been scheduled
Argentina President Mauricio Macri said the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi could come up at the summit
‘It just wasn’t set up,’ the president said on Thursday when asked if the two would talk. ‘I would have met with it but we didn’t set that up.’
Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Thursday that Khashoggi’s death may be discussed during the summit.
‘Regarding the crown prince, who is attending this summit, Saudi Arabia is a permanent member of the G20. And, as such, he is attending. This issue, which has impacted the world, is on the table and it may come out in bilateral meetings or not, or in the G20 agenda,’ Macri said.
It’s President Trump’s first visit to South America and his schedule is jam packed with bilaterals, as the meetings are know.
In addition to his sit down with Xi, Trump will meet with incoming Macri, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He’ll also participate in the formal signing of the trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that the president dubbed the USMC.
Canada´s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and first lady Sophie Gregoire (left) arrive in Buenos Aires as does Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (right); the U.S., Mexico and Canada will sign a trade deal during the G20
Here’s a look at Trump’s G20 schedule and what’s at stake in his meetings:
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping
President Trump’s Saturday night dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping comes amid back-and-forth tariffs each nation has imposed on the other.
It will be the first time the two leaders have met since the tariff wars began – at a cost of $360 billion worth of tariffs placed American and Chinese goods.
They are trying to work out a new trade deal.
‘I think we’re very close to getting something with China,’ President Trump told reporters on Thursday as he left the White House for Argentina.
But he also added a caveat.
‘What we have right now is billions and billions of dollars coming into the United States in the form or traffic and taxes,’ he said. ‘I like the deal with have right now.’
President Trump will have dinner Saturday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the two countries try to work out a trade deal
Trump has threatened another round of billions in tariffs if China can’t make a trade deal.
‘If we don’t make a deal, then I’m going to put the $267 billion additional on’ at a tariff rate of either 10 percent or 25 percent, he told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.
But Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow said Tuesday the president is optimistic both sides can come together for a deal.
‘In his view there’s a good possibility that a deal can be made and that he is open to that,’ Kudlow said a press briefing.
He said China would have to come to the table with resolutions for issues on intellectual property theft, and forced technology transfers. He added that tariff and non-tariff barriers have to be solved along with issues of ownership.
‘If China will come to the table – in this case the dinner table – with new ideas, new attitudes and new cooperation, the president has said he’s open to it,’ Kudlow said of the possibility of a deal.
The trade war between the two economic super powers began in March when the administration announced tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Beijing retaliated with $50 billion in tariffs on American goods.
Washington countered with a second wave of tariffs on an additional $200 billion on Chinese goods. And China responded with another $60 billion in tariffs on American items.
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Trump canceled his meeting with Putin on Thursday an hour after he said it was on.
He cited the three Ukrainian ships seized by Russia as the reason.
‘Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting…
…in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!,’ Trump wrote in a pair of tweets after he boarded Air Force One to fly here.
But, a mere hour earlier, as he was leaving the White House to go to Joint Base Andrews for the trip, he told reporters the sit down was on after he threatened to cancel it earlier this week.
President Trump and President Putin were supposed to meet Saturday but Trump called it off
‘I probably will be meeting with President Putin. We haven’t terminated that meeting,’ he told reporters at the White House before he left for the summit. ‘I think it’s a very good time to have the meeting.’
He added he would receive a report on Air Force One about the incident with the Ukrainian ships.
‘I’m getting a full report on the plane in respect to what happened,’ he said.
And White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on the plane it was after reading that report the president decided to cancel the bilat.
The meeting between the two leaders was to focus on security issues, arm controls issues, and regional issues including Middle East, National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
But that agenda was released before the news of Michael Cohen’s plea and the news that he had lied to lawmakers about how long his talks with Russia had gone on while Trump was seeking the Oval Office.
Cohen admitted in federal court that he misled federal lawmakers about a proposed deal to build a Trump Tower project in Moscow – something he was working on in 2015 and 2016 while Trump was running for the White House.
Cohen has previously said the project was shelved in January 2016, but it extended until June of that year, throughout the entirety of the Republican presidential primary process.
Therefore Trump, who has displayed little interest in confronting Putin in public or in private, would have been seen with his Russian counterpart just days after new details about his planned Russian business venture were revealed
President Trump bashed his former confidant as he left the White House, saying he’s ‘making up a story’ and ‘lying, very simply, to get a reduced sentence.’
Trump and Putin spoke briefly in France earlier this month when both men were present for celebrations honoring the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I.
But they have not had a formal sit down since their July summit in Helsinki, where Trump was criticized for appearing too differential to Putin.
The wildcard: President Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
One person not making the list of leader meetings is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with the White House citing the president’s packed schedule as a reason.
‘No,’ said National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday when asked if the president would meet with the prince. ‘The bilateral schedule is full to overflowing.’
But the optics would have looked bad and raised even more questions about the president’s relationship with the controversial prince, who is close to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Kushner will also be at the G20 but a White House official told the DailyMail.com that Jared would not meet with the prince.
Saudi Arabia´s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the airport in Buenos Aires
Trump has been insisting for weeks that he is right not to condemn Saudi Arabian leaders for Khashoggi’s murder
Trump said last week he was opening to sitting down with MBS – the crown prince is known by his initials – after he repeatedly defended the prince against allegations MBS ordered the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
And he repeated that option to reporters on Thursday.
‘It just wasn’t set up,’ the president said when asked if the two would talk. ‘I would have met with it but we didn’t set that up.’
The president has repeatedly defended Saudi Arabia as a ‘strong ally’ who has invested billions of dollars into the United States.
Trump said on Thanksgiving Day that the CIA has not ‘concluded’ the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
‘Whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently,’ Trump said of the prince to reporters after he spoke on the phone with U.S. troops. ‘The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t.’
‘The CIA points it both ways. And as I said, maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I will say very strongly that it’s a very important ally,’ he noted of the oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
His statement contradicts reports the spy agency has determined with ‘high confidence’ that MBS – the crown prince is known by his initials – ordered the assassination, which contradicting the Saudi government’s claims that MSB was not involved.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday: ‘There is no direct reporting connecting the Crown Prince to the order to murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That’s all I can say in an unclassified setting.’
President Trump and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has led the charge against MBS for the murder of Khashoggi, is expected to use the G20 meeting as a platform to demand accountability for the journalist’s killing.
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders downgrade the president’s meeting with Erdogan, telling reporters on Air Force One it was just a pull aside and not a formal meeting.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan arrive in Buenos Aires
Erdogan gave the U.S. a recording of Khashoggi’s death that is not public but has not had its authenticity disputed earlier this month as he left for an Armistice Day celebration in Paris. The audio reportedly makes it clear that Khashoggi was murdered but doesn’t contain a smoking gun that would directly implicate bin Salman.
Trump and Erdogan discussed the murder during a dinner in Paris, the White House told DailyMail.com.
President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets a bilateral with Trump – unlike her European counterparts French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
But it will be her last meeting as chancellor of Germany. She announced in October she will step down this fall with the election to succeed her taking place on Dec. 7.
Her and Trump’s relationship has been contentious so it’ll be interesting to watch how their G20 meeting shakes out.
Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian vessels could come up as Trump called on European leaders to ‘get involved’ in the incident in an interview with theNew York Post on Wednesday.
‘Angela, let’s get involved Angela!’ he added, referring to Merkel.
At a NATO summit in Belgium in July, the two leaders had harsh words for one another.
Trump claimed Germany was ‘totally controlled’ by Russia and ‘a captive of the Russians.’ He also slammed the country for not contributing enough money to the NATO defense fund.
This infamous photo of Merkel and Trump came out of their G7 meeting in July
Merkel is not seeking reelection as Chancellor of Germany
Merkel shot back.
‘I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany,’ she said.
She added: ‘Germany does a lot for NATO.’
And from a June G7 meeting in Canada came the now infamous photo of Merkel staring down Trump as he sat across the table from her, arms crossed.
Merkel has been in the throes of an immigration crisis in her country that threatened her government.
Trump has taken a much harsher stand on the issue, saying the U.S. should close its border with Mexico and he criticized the German chancellor for her handling of the issue.
‘Angela was a superstar until she allowed millions of people to come into Germany,’ Trump told Fox News in July. ‘That really hurt her badly, as you know. She was unbeatable in any election. She allowed millions of people to come in. . . . She has been very badly hurt by immigration.’
President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a trilateral meeting
The meeting of the three leaders will be an expansion of the bilateral meeting between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Trump and Abe have a close relationship. Abe dinned with the president at his Trump Tower residence when both leaders where in New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September.
Trump’s bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) will be expanded to a trilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right)
The Japanese Prime Minister told reporters the two discussed trade and reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Their meeting here comes amid renewed threats from Trump to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported automobiles, which would hit Japan hard and could result in Tokyo imposing tariffs of its own.
It’s a topic that will likely come up.
President Trump and Argentina Mauricio Macri
President Mauricio Macri is one of Trump’s former golfing partners.
The two men have known each other for years. They first met in the 1980s when Macri’s father, Francisco Macri, sold his stake Manhattan property to Trump.
President Mauricio Macri is one of Trump’s former golfing partners
Marci’s father wrote in his book that it was during negotiations on that deal that his son beat Trump at golf – and Trump broke his golf club in frustration over the loss.
And Argentina has backed Trump’s tough stance on Venezuela.
Trump’s first formal meeting of the G20 will be with Macri, who is hosting the summit.
President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is the man in the middle when it comes to Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Moon has taken the lead on efforts to get North Korea to disarm its nuclear program – a topic sure to come up in his sit down with Trump. Moon has made three trips to Pyongyang and had meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, arriving in Buenos Aires with his wife Kim Jung-Sook, is the man in the middle when it comes to Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
Their sit down comes as Kim is pushing for another meeting with the president, after the two met in June in Singapore. The resulting agreement they signed was criticized for not having specific goals when it came to disarming the Korean Peninsula, for a lack of deadlines, and for a lack of guarantees disarmament had taken place.
Trump and Moon signed a renegotiated trade pact in New York when both leaders attended the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September.
Their meeting here was also downgraded to a ‘pull aside,’ Sanders told reporters on Thursday.