Trump quarrels infuse tense G20 summit

G20 Summit banner in downtown Buenos Aires

The two men beamed widely and clasped hands. The G20 nations account for 85 percent of the world's economic output and two thirds of its population. USA stocks closed slightly higher on Friday on market hopes that a compromise could be reached by the two leaders.

But on the eve of what is seen as the most important meeting of United States and Chinese leaders in years, both sides said differences remained, and the outcome of the talks were uncertain.

On the economic front, the G20 nations are expected to have exchanged views on other risks to the world economy, including the slowdown of China's economy, and USA monetary policy normalization that could trigger an outflow of capital from emerging markets.

A summit of the world's top economies will open on Friday with leaders struggling over fallout from a US-China trade war that has roiled global markets and bracing for the kind of divisive geopolitical drama that President Donald Trump often brings to the worldwide stage.

But Human Rights Watch accuses him of responsibility and also of war crimes in Yemen, and on Wednesday, Argentine legal authorities took initial action to consider a request to prosecute him for alleged crimes against humanity, a move apparently aimed at embarrassing him as he attends the summit.

A Chinese foreign ministry official in Buenos Aires said there were signs of increasing consensus ahead of the discussions, although differences remained, Reuters reported. In previous years, the G20's joint statement had been hammered out well in advance.

A major issue that is hanging over the summit is the continued trade war between the United States and China.

Trump on Thursday cancelled a planned bilateral with Putin over Russia's naval skirmish with Ukraine in waters near Moscow-annexed Crimea. The meeting will also be a test of the personal chemistry between the two leaders, which Trump has hailed as a warm friendship.

Signing the agreement alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump said he looked forward to working with the U.S. Congress to complete the terms of the deal and did not anticipate problems in passing it.

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A White House spokeswoman denied this and Trump said on Friday the ships' seizure was the "sole reason" he scratched the meeting. The Kremlin said it was willing to be "patient" in arranging a meeting with Trump.

In remarks to the summit relayed by the Xinhua news agency, Xi reaffirmed his pledges of economic reform "with increased efforts in intellectual property rights protection and more imports".

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly greeted news of the cancellation by saying that while it was regrettable, it left the Russian president with a couple of extra hours to meet other leaders on the sidelines of the summit.

Later in the one-minute clip Mr Macron says: "You never listen to me" and the Crown Prince replies: "I will listen, of course".

-China trade tensions, the G20 leaders discussed at the summit Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Japanese official said, although he declined to disclose any details.

On another issue, Trump said Thursday he will bring up with Xi the case of an American woman and her two grown children who are suspected of being held in China to force their estranged father to return to China to face fraud charges. Putin reportedly pulled out a pen and paper to sketch the skirmish in the meeting, Bloomberg reported. He had just finished lauding the "robust" relationship between the USA and Japan, particularly in their trade cooperation.

That session will lead into the large gathering of the G20, where Trump will find himself face-to-face with the collection of global leaders he has sometimes rebuffed.

There are also questions about how to handle the awkward presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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