Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (CNN)As stage exits go Donald Trump’s departure was something of a whimper, the US President leaving the top table of global G20 leaders to play golf.
Trump has been out of kilter with the global mood since he first took office preaching his “America first, fair, not free trade” brand of nationalist isolationist hubris.
Now, as his time in office draws to a close, despite his refusal to publicly accept the reality
of the US election results, the combined unspoken message from the world’s leaders is: don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
The virtual summit for leaders of the world’s richest nations is being hosted by Saudi Arabia. Its stated aim is to pull countries together to combat Covid-19, accelerate testing, treatment and vaccines for all, while helping poor nations cope with the pandemic’s economic impact.
Evidence of the shifting attitude toward the outgoing US administration came from the lips of Saudi’s Minister of Investment, Khalid al-Falih. “When the world needed leadership [to combat Covid-19] there was none,” he said. The G20 had stepped up because some nations “turned inwards towards nationalism.” Al-Falih didn’t mention Trump by name. He didn’t need to; his audience understood.
In his G20 opening remarks, Saudi’s King Salman also appeared to rebuke a core Trumpian value: that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has too much power.
King Salman, surrounded on screen by Zoom-style boxes showing leaders including a semi-slouching Trump, said: “We have adopted the Riyadh initiative on the future of the WTO with the aim of making the future multilateral trading system more capable to face any present or future challenges.”
And, in a stunning development, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who is normally at odds with the Saudis, backed the King’s initiative. “Turkey is supporting fair global economic growth and welfare sharing in line with World Trade Organization principles,” he said. “For this, reform process of WTO should progress.”
As leaders spoke of the importance of sharing and working together to accelerate Covid-19 testing, treatments and vaccines for all, the White House struck a starkly different tone. White House press secr