ANALYSIS: A world without US leadership

Political commentator Cokie Roberts on Trump at the G-20 summit.

While it’s no surprise that Putin adamantly denied Russia's interference in the U.S. election, his ability to get away with that fiction does come as something of a shock. No matter who said what to whom in that cozy confab, it’s clear that Putin will pay no price for his nation’s meddling in the fundamental exercise of democracy in the United States of America.

That’s a big win for him.

Meanwhile nations with far larger economies were quietly going about the business of dealing with trade and climate, issues that could have much more impact on the lives of average Americans than anything that happened in the session with Putin.

The other G-20 countries worked into the early hours this morning before being able to produce a statement on trade that the U.S. would endorse. Trump continues to insist that past U.S. presidents have played the sucker, getting taken on trade deals, despite the huge role foreign trade plays in the United States economy. Last year, U.S. foreign trade accounted for $5 trillion in economic activity, about evenly split between imports and exports, with China alone importing $160 billion of U.S. goods and services.

The specter that Trump might impose a tariff on imported steel hung heavily over the negotiators in Hamburg as they crafted their communique. If the president actually were to follow through on that threat it would likely set off an international trade war that would hit Americans squarely in their pocketbooks. Not only would thousands of workers whose products are exported be affected, so would every consumer in the country.

Last year, more Americans were employed in “clean energy” jobs than in the fossil fuel industry. The president’s refusal to recognize that reality doesn’t make him look strong. It makes him look irrelevant.

We do know this: When President Trump left the G-20 today, the United States was no longer leading that group of the world’s most important nations. But the other members of that elite international community made their choice. They will continue to deal cooperatively on crucial matters facing the future, with or without America.

Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News.

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