Trump Upbeat At Start Of G-20 Summit, Predicts 'Very Productive' Meetings
BUENOS AIRES — President Trump sounded an optimistic note at the outset of what he called “two very busy days” of international economic and diplomatic meetings, tweeting early Friday that “Our great Country is extremely well represented” at the Group of 20 summit of world leaders.
“Will be very productive!” Trump wrote, shortly after arriving here for a gathering dominated by global fears of a U.S.-China trade war and shadowed by Trump’s growing legal troubles at home.
His schedule here — packed to bursting as outlined by aides earlier in the week — grew lighter Thursday when Trump canceled his planned sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That meeting had been a centerpiece of Trump’s attendance. He also downgraded two other planned sessions, with the leaders of South Korea and Turkey, to brief chats on the margins of the gathering.
Trump celebrated a retooled North American trade agreement with a signing ceremony Friday morning, and he planned to meet with the leaders of Japan, India and Germany.
Trump began his day on little sleep Friday, having tweeted after midnight local time about the G-20 and again little more than six hours later with complaints about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
But he seemed cheerful as he greeted Argentine President Mauricio Macri, whom he called an old friend, and ad-libbed a fond remembrance of his days as a Manhattan real estate developer.
“I’ve been friends with Mauricio for a long time,” he said. “I actually did business with his family, with his father. Great father, friend of mine.”
Trump said the elder Macri had been involved with Trump’s purchase of the West Side Yards, a large chunk of developable land along the Hudson River. Trump bought the former railroad property in 1985 for $115 million and planned to build a $4.5 billion complex called Television City. It never happened, and Trump defaulted on about $1 billion in loans in 1994. He sold a majority stake in the property and later took a profit when it was resold.
“It was a great job, successful job, very big job. One of the largest jobs in Manhattan,” Trump mused Friday. “That was in my civilian days. And so I always had fond memories. Little did I know that his son would become El Presidente,” Trump said. “And little did he know that I was going to become president.”
Their breakfast conversation would cover trade and military purchases, as well as a “little bit old times,” Trump said. “About 95 percent business, I would say,” he added.
On Thursday, Macri’s chief of staff, Marcos Peña, said the United States and Argentina have a “shared agenda” on security.
“It is also very important what has been achieved and continues to be achieved in cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, against terrorism,” he told reporters.
Trump was seemed preoccupied by events at home even before he left his hotel Friday. He tweeted two sarcastic messages complaining anew that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt.”
In major developments this week, investigators in the special counsel’s investigation have publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether the president’s campaign conspired with Moscow.
That investigation had hung over Trump’s planned meeting with Putin, but he said he was calling off the session because of Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea.
Trump’s dinner meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday is now the main attraction for his trip. Both sides have sounded open to a preliminary agreement that might avert new tariffs.
Also Friday, Trump was in the audience as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto bestowed the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, his country’s highest award, on Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. Kushner was heavily involved in negotiations for a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Kushner thanked the Mexican leader, whose last day in office is Friday.
“You have always put Mexican interests first even when it wasn’t popular,” Kushner said.
Kushner also praised Trump.
“Through your direction and leadership we were able to accomplish a lot of great things,” he said. “While there has been a lot of tough talk, I have seen the genuine respect and care that President Trump has for Mexico and the Mexican people, and I do believe we have been able to put that in the right light.”
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, replaces NAFTA and establishes new rules for the auto industry and digital trade, but it faces an uphill fight in Congress next year.
In his own remarks at the trade agreement signing afterward, Trump praised the Mexican leader and thanked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom he had mocked during the talks. Trump has not scheduled any private meetings with Trudeau at the G-20.
He also has not announced plans to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom his once-sunny relationship has lately soured.
In contrast with Trump, who arrived in Buenos Aires only hours before the first summit meetings began, Macron was emerging as the darling of the Argentines. He arrived a day and half early and made a broad run through a city often dubbed the “Paris of South America.” He dined at a traditional Argentine steak house and visited the cultural institute of the renowned Argentine author Julio Borges. He took his morning coffee at Ateneo Grand Splendid, a theater turned book store and café that is heralded as among the most glamorous in the world.
Cheering crowds formed outside the book store, leading the local paper Clarin to dub Macron “a rock star.”
It was a visit that was organized very confidentially,” the bookstore’s manager, Andrea Stefanoni, told Clarin. “It was organized days ago and was very beautiful because he is a person who feels very much tied to literature.”
This article was written by Philip Rucker, Anne Gearan and Anthony Faiola from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.