- - Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The G-20 summit opens Friday to address issues important to the global economy, but for President Trump the world is not enough. He has special business on the side that could be more pivotal than the gathering’s broad agenda. From China to Russia to Iran to the Koreas, the president’s dealmaker checklist could boost or break his momentum as he prepares to meet the field of Democratic presidential contenders head-on.

The world’s 19 strongest economies plus that of the European Union, which together control 80 percent of the global gross domestic product, have their own punch list of hot-button issues to ponder during their two days in Osaka, Japan. These include the status of global growth, which “appears to be stabilizing, and is generally projected to pick up moderately later this year and into 2020.” How nations can “work together toward the realization of a sustainable and innovative global society by making full use of digital technologies, together with trade and investment,” and “energy transitions and global environment for sustainable growth,” have been discussed at lower-level meetings preceding the G-20.

Mr. Trump’s to-do list includes more pointed goals. Number One is a trade agreement with China, to be worked out in intensive talks on the side with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The stakes are high as the world’s two largest economies grapple for a final resolution to the trade war Mr. Trump triggered by first threatening, then imposing, tariffs on Chinese imports in retaliation for decades of unfair practices that have overtaxed U.S. imports and stole its intellectual property.

All would be forgiven, if not forgotten, with a deal that both leaders want. “Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China,” Mr. Trump tweeted in anticipation of the face-to-face meeting. “We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan.” Mr. Xi seconded the optimistic expectations. “It’s hard to imagine a complete break of the United States from China or of China from the United States. We are not interested in this, and our American partners are not interested in this. President Trump is my friend and I am convinced he is also not interested in this.”

U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and the blacklisting of telecom giant Huawei have dented the Chinese economy, and Beijing has responded with duties of its own on U.S. exports worth $60 billion. The unmatched American economy has weathered the trade battle well. But growing economic uncertainty and falling consumer confidence are risks the president cannot afford to take heading toward an election year.

Mr. Trump will further face a bird of a different feather in Osaka, an albatross in the form of Vladimir Putin. The Russian KGB man-turned-president has laughed at the mischief — real and imagined — he caused in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He has damaged the Trump presidency by setting Democrats on their relentless quest to prove as fact the fantasy of a Trump-Putin alliance.

Mr. Trump and the West need Mr. Putin to table his vandalism and lean in with a plan to discourage Iranian attacks on oil tankers and Iran’s return to nuclear bomb-making. Sadly, the opposite is likely. Russia has sided with the mullahs in their shoot-down of a U.S. Navy drone over the Strait of Hormuz, supporting Tehran’s claim that the drone violated Iranian airspace. Rather than compete on the field, it’s easier to heckle from the sidelines, which is where Mr. Putin will have the misguided company of the Democrats in Washington.

Mr. Trump aims to cap his Osaka outing with a stop in South Korea to renew the American denuclearization campaign directed at the North. Having received “a beautiful letter” of birthday greetings from Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump seeks the counsel of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Mr. Trump wants to refresh the anti-nuclear dialogue that stalled during the U.S.-North Korean summit in Hanoi in February. Talk is cheap, whether written or spoken, and it must take more good will than a letter can convey to persuade Mr. Trump to ease the economic sanctions meant to punish Pyongyang nuclear threats.

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