Oh what a difference a year makes.

In June 2019 at the G20 summit in Osaka, President Trump was enjoying hobnobbing with world leaders.

The "family photo" shows him front and centre, next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

At one point the two men turned to clasp hands and speak to each other, while Britain's Theresa May - now also long gone - smiled in the background.

 

President Trump at the G20 in 2019. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
President Trump at the G20 in 2019. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

 

Trump shaking hands with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman as Scott Morrison and Theresa May smile for the cameras. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Trump shaking hands with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman as Scott Morrison and Theresa May smile for the cameras. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

 

 

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Fast forward to 2020 and a very different President Trump could be attending the summit - if he does at all.

The G20 Saudi Arabia meeting will be held virtually as the world, and the US in particular, is ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic which has led to more than 55 million cases and 1.3 million deaths.

Of those, more than 248,000 deaths have been in the US, with Trump criticised for seemingly shirking responsibility for the crisis in the wake of the election that saw him lose to Democract Joe Biden - a result he has still refused to concede.

It's unclear whether Mr Trump will take the opportunity to seize his final moment on the world stage. Saudi Arabia is ironically the first country he visited as leader back in 2017 after sensationally sacking FBI director James Comey.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will be there and has defended the Trump administration, saying there would be a peaceful transition to a "second Trump administration" in comments that sparked outrage following the vote.

Election officials have repeatedly stressed the results were secure, however President Trump has long sowed doubt among his supporters over the use of mail-in ballots which were at an highest in 2020 due to the pandemic.

If he does attend, Mr Trump could find himself out of sorts with traditional US allies who have already sent congratulations to Mr Biden and are tuning their diplomatic antennae towards the incoming administration.

"Trump's actions at the summit aren't likely to have as much of an effect as they might have in previous years," Ryan Bohl, of US geopolitical think-tank Stratfor, told AFP.

"Even should he not attend, his lame duck status will make that relatively palatable - it would be just one more norm he upsets on his way out."

 

 

VIRTUAL SUMMIT

Saudi Arabia's hosting duties are the first for an Arab nation but the virtual format could limit debate during a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring economic crisis.

Discussions are expected to centre around the pandemic and how to revive the ailing global economy. Nations have taken starkly different approaches with varying degrees of success, from harsh lockdowns seen in Australia and New Zealand to the "living with COVID" approach adopted in much of Europe.

The Paris-based OECD projects global economic output will contract by 4.5 per cent this year.

G20 nations have contributed more than $21 billion to combat the pandemic, including production of vaccines, and injected $11 trillion to "safeguard" the virus-battered world economy, organisers said.

But the group faces mounting pressure to help stave off possible credit defaults across developing nations.

In a letter to G20 leaders released Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for "bolder measures" and emphasised that "further debt relief will be required".

World leaders, from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, are expected to make speeches at the summit, sources close to the organisers said.

The virtual setting could frustrate "spontaneous combustion" among leaders, limiting "encounters on unscheduled subjects", said John Kirton, director and founder of the Canada-based G20 Research Group.

Originally published as Telling photo sums up Trump's year


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