RUSUTSU, Japan – President Bush has worked hard over the last few years to cultivate good relations with many world leaders, but as a summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations got under way he was once again discovering the limitations of those efforts.
Bush is pushing here for a new round of sanctions against Zimbabwe and a strong statement from fellow G-8 leaders slamming President Robert Mugabe for his thuggish actions in the recent election – but he encountered public resistance from a friend attending the gathering, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
Several of the G-8 leaders were also reported to be mounting last-minute opposition to a U.S. initiative to publicize their progress in meeting assistance goals for Africa. And Germany, among other U.S. allies, has been resisting Bush’s approach on climate change, according to officials and environmental advocates familiar with negotiations to develop a long-term goal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
Things may work out fine for the president and his agenda by the time meetings conclude Wednesday. But the situation underscores Bush’s lame-duck status and the powerful domestic considerations in each member country that complicate efforts to forge agreements on AIDS in Africa, global warming, Zimbabwe and economic issues.
This morning, Bush met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he has developed a warm and, by many accounts, constructive personal relationship and whom he invited to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, last fall. But Merkel’s flexibility is circumscribed on global warming.
Bush and Merkel pledged today to keep working together on common problems, but progress appeared slow on reaching a consensus on climate change.
Bush was terse after the meeting, not mentioning global warming but telling reporters: “We talked about a lot of common problems and a lot of common opportunities. We talked about the G-8. We talked about the need to work – continue to work together on Iran.”
Bush and Merkel met just before G-8 members plunged into a discussion about the major problems on the agenda: deciding whether to set new targets for reducing emissions that contribute to global warming and deciding what to do about rising food and oil prices.
There’s little doubt that some of the G-8 countries intend to wait Bush out on global warming, confident they will get a better deal from Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama when it comes time to conclude negotiations next year on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.
But aides to Bush argue it would be a political miscalculation to assume that even a Democratic president would take a different view on one of Bush’s major objectives here – making sure China and other developing countries are included in any new climate change pact.