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G20 Summit: Australian PM Scott Morrison cosies up to Donald Trump

As world leaders have met in Argentina for the 2018 G20 Summit, Scott Morrison wasted no time in making friends with the divisive President of the United States.

The G20 summit commenced overnight with 20 leaders of the world’s economic powers, including Russia, China, the United States and all members of the European Union.

The International Summit began in 1999 and is a key event for leaders to discuss trade, finance and other global issues. The G20 nations make up 85 per cent of global GDP.

The pair held a meeting on the sidelines of the summit where Mr Morrison was forced to explain the latest leadership spill, which saw former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull axed from the position.

“They have their inquiries,” Mr Morrison said of the group of leaders at the summit. Mr Morrison is Australia’s third prime minister in just five years.

But Mr Trump seemed unphased, declaring things were “so far so good” with his relationship with Australia.

“You’ve done a lot of the things that they’ve wanted over there and that’s why you’re sitting right here,” Morrison beamed at Trump.

Trump gave a glowing endorsement of Morrison, saying he’d done “a fantastic job in a very short period of time” as prime minister.

Morrison met with Trump as the two discussed trade issues. The Prime Minister had earlier tweeted his excitement about the “pull-aside” meeting.

“Just getting to know each other and so far so good, I think it’s going to be a great relationship,” Trump told reporters.

Mr Morrison was pleased to tell reporters about how Australia and the USA “have always been the greatest of friends.”

media_camera“The greatest of friends.” Picture: Lukas Coch

But speaking to The New York Times journalist Maureen O’Dowd, his messaging was a little less trade and a little more parade.

“We don’t want all this political correct nonsense telling people they can’t have an Easter hat parade.” Morrison said. He told the Times when it comes to him and President Trump, “I think we both get it”.

“(Trump) is very practical,” he said.

“I like that about him a lot, actually.”

The New York Times column refers to Morrison as “lonely” President Trump’s only friend.

“If you want a friend in politics, get an Aussie,” it reads.

media_cameraScott Morrison spoke about how Trump “gets it.” Picture: Lukas Coch

TRADE TENSIONS WITH CHINA

Trump has been attacked for destroying the G20’s past unity on trade and climate change. But he won a breakthrough with the signing of a new trade pact for North America and, having ignited a trade war with China, touted “good signs” ahead of a dinner with President Xi Jinping.

Their dinner is scheduled for Saturday night Argentinian time, where the two superpowers will attempt to resolve large trade disputes. The informal dinner is the only planned meeting between the USA and China during the G20 Summit.

media_cameraChina’s President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Putin. Picture: Alexander Nemenov

Prime Minister Morrison is also scheduled to dine with President Xi this weekend, in his own high stakes dinner that is supposed to de-escalate Australia’s own simmering tensions with the superpower.

Australia has consistently attempted to remain neutral, holding important diplomatic and trade ties with both of the superpowers.

“There will be tensions from time to time as you transition from an old economy to a new economy,” Morrison said.

“Some of the old rules are a bit clunky. They need a service.”

SAUDI PRINCE DELIGHTS ON STAGE

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman showed himself to be no pariah Friday at the G20 summit, with a beaming Vladimir Putin welcoming him but European leaders warning him over the killing of a dissident journalist.

Less than two months after Saudi Arabia outraged allies when a hit team murdered Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, Prince Mohammed flew into Buenos Aires to take his place among leaders of the top 20 global economies, a sign that he intends to remain firmly in charge.

media_cameraVladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman high-fiving. Picture: Ho

In an image that quickly went viral online, Russian President Putin and the 33-year-old prince grinned broadly and gave each other an effusive handshake as if they were long-lost friends reunited at the G20.

Their embrace comes amid reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached a pact to cut oil production when the OPEC cartel meets on December 6 in Vienna, to help shore up collapsing crude prices.

But the prince appeared to receive a more critical reception from French President Emmanuel Macron, who was overheard on a microphone voicing concerns.

“Don’t worry,” Prince Mohammed is heard saying in English to the French leader, who responds, “I do worry. I am worried.” The clip was partially inaudible and the context of the exchange was not entirely clear.

But it received wide traction on social media, with Macron telling the prince, “You never listen to me,” to which Prince Mohammed replies, “I will listen, of course.” The French presidency said that Macron spoke to the prince about the killing of Khashoggi and the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Macron told Prince Mohammed that Europeans wanted international investigators to take part in the probe on Khashoggi’s death and stressed “the necessity of a political solution in Yemen,” the Elysee Palace said.

TRUMP MEETS WITH SAUDI LEADER

media_cameraTrump has tried to downplay his relationship with the Saudi leader.

The prince was also seen chatting with President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka, although in a nod to US domestic outrage over Saudi Arabia, the White House downplayed the encounter.

“They exchanged pleasantries at the leaders’ session as he did with nearly every leader in attendance,” a senior White House official said.

media_cameraFirst lady Melania Trump and Juliana Awada, the wife of the Argentinian President.

Trump, meanwhile, said “we had no discussion. We might, but we had none.” Until Khashoggi’s killing, Trump had been an unabashed fan of Prince Mohammed as the young leader consolidated power and detained prominent Saudis, with the heir apparent forging a particularly close relationship with Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner.

Trump has since voiced sadness over the killing of Khashoggi, who lived in the United States and wrote for The Washington Post.

But, in an exclamation point-heavy statement before the summit, Trump said it did not matter whether Prince Mohammed knew about Khashoggi’s death because Saudi Arabia was important for US business and for its hostility to Iran.

The US Senate nonetheless moved this week to end support for the Saudi-led war against rebels in Yemen amid outrage over attacks on civilian sites including a school bus and hospitals.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking to Sky News before the summit, said she would press the crown prince both on Yemen and Khashoggi at the G20.

“The Saudi Arabians need to ensure that their investigation is a full investigation, that it’s credible, that it’s transparent, and that people can have confidence in the outcome of it, and that those responsible are held to account,” May said

TRUMP DODGES PUTIN

media_cameraScott Morrison, who was awkwardly positioned next to Putin in a large group photo.

US President Donald Trump went out of his way Friday to dodge President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, but still couldn’t shake the growing Russia collusion scandal back home.

Trump was meant to hold a one-on-one meeting with the Kremlin leader Friday, followed by an expanded session with their delegations.

But during the flight to Argentina on Thursday for the two-day talks, Trump abruptly cancelled, saying this was due to Washington’s anger at a Russian navy assault on Ukrainian ships last weekend.

Once at the summit venue, it became impossible to avoid Putin altogether, because the group’s 20 leaders were having lunch, as well as other joint activities. But when gathering for the traditional “family photo,” Trump walked past the Russian president without stopping.

Asked later if he would exchange pleasantries with Putin, Trump said: “Not particularly. I don’t know.” Many were not convinced, asking whether Trump’s snub of Putin was more due to growing discomfort over the probe into his allegedly improper contacts with Moscow than outrage over Ukraine.

This prompted Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders to reiterate on Friday that the president’s only reasoning for the dramatic schedule change was Ukraine.

However, Sanders also lashed out at the collusion probe, which she branded “the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax,” and said the controversy “probably does undermine our relationship with Russia.”

On Friday, before launching into the G20 diplomatic schedule, Trump fired off two tweets angrily denying that he improperly mixed his business and political ambitions — something that critics claim could have put the US leader under the Kremlin’s influence.

“Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly),” Trump tweeted Friday.

“Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail,” he said.

“Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia,” the Republican leader continued. “Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!” Before leaving for the G20, Trump called Cohen “weak” and said “he is lying about a project that everybody knew about.

Originally published as ScoMo’s new bromance with Trump

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