Wednesday 21 April 2021

Rutte gets ticket to G20 as Merkel seeks to build new alliances

French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte

Merkel sees Rutte as a more proven partner than Macron (left). AP/ Markus Schreiber

The Netherlands will take part in the annual G20 economic summit for the first time since 2010 after Mark Rutte received a personal invitation from German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel, who is chairing this year’s G20 gathering in Hamburg on Friday and Saturday, invited the caretaker prime minister during the Dutch presidency of the EU last year, the Financieele Dagblad said on Thursday.

The Netherlands has been angling for permanent membership of the G20 for years. The Dutch government was involved in preparatory talks for this summit where climate, energy, trade and tax policy are on the agenda.

The G20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union, which is represented by the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85% of global GDP, 80% of world trade and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael international relations think-tank, said Merkel counts Rutte as a close friend and one of the longest-serving heads of government in the EU.

Korteweg stressed that as a major trading partner and advocate of free trade, the Netherlands can join the discussions at the Hamburg summit with the ‘America First’ US president Donald Trump.

Rutte is a proven partner on these issues, unlike the untested French president Emmanuel Macron. And the position of British prime minister Theresa May is weak because of her recent general election setback and the UK’s preoccupation with leaving the EU.

Korteweg said the summit would provide Rutte with opportunities to make new friends within the EU so that the German-French influence could be countered. Caretaker foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, his counterpart at the finance ministry, will also take part.

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