What each G-20 leader has said about Trump — and Biden

For years, world leaders from the Group of 20 have gathered at an annual meeting to discuss the global economy.

The summit includes a moment when the group, including heads of state and government from some of the world’s most powerful countries, seem to briefly forget their differences and squeeze together for a commensurately awkward “family photo.”

Last year, The Washington Post compiled an account of how key figures lining the stage in Osaka, Japan, had been described by President Trump, who stood front and center, between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This year, the summit, hosted by Riyadh, has gone digital.

As congratulations for President-elect Joe Biden, set to assume office in January, pour in from around the world, and while Trump continues to maintain that he won the November presidential election and to level baseless claims of voter fraud, here’s what his fellow G-20 leaders have said about him — and Biden.

G20 Summit Leader — Turkey

Turkey

Turkish President Erdogan waited several days to congratulate Biden on the election results.

“I believe that the strong cooperation and the bond of alliance between our countries will continue to make vital contributions to world peace in the future, as it has done so far,” Erdogan said in a statement released by his office.

He also wrote to Trump, thanking him for his “sincere and determined vision” and “warm friendship” throughout his term, the Associated Press reported.

G20 Summit Leader — Indonesia

Indonesia

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who goes by Jokowi, tweeted his “warmest congratulations” to Biden and Harris on what he described as their “historic election.”

“The huge turn out is a reflection of the hope placed on democracy,” he wrote.

When the Indonesian leader visited Washington in 2017, he told Trump he needed “to deliver to you warm greetings from your millions of fans in Indonesia” and that many people there were waiting for Trump to visit.

G20 Summit Leader — European Commission

European Commission

The European Union was quick to recognize Biden as the next leader of the United States. At the summit on Saturday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she hoped America’s “new President-elect” Biden will “increase multilateral cooperation” in areas such as health policy and climate change.

When von der Leyen met Trump in January, she said it was “a good opportunity to connect personally," adding: “It was important to me to emphasize the unbreakable bonds between our societies and economies.”

G20 Summit Leader — France

France

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose initial bromance with Trump later turned rocky, quickly congratulated Biden and spoke to him by phone several days after he won the election. He said the pair “have a lot to do together to promote shared priorities — climate, global health, international security — and effective multilateral action.”

Last year, Macron suggested that the United States was “turning its back on us” and that NATO had gone through “brain death” — comments that infuriated Trump despite his own repeated criticisms of the alliance.

G20 Summit Leader — South Korea

South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was quick to congratulate Biden, tweeting, “I very much look forward to working with you for our shared values.” The two later spoke by phone and agreed to work together to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat.

Although Moon and Trump had some disagreements over how best to engage North Korea, the South Korean leader visited Trump at the White House last year, where he described him as “the peacemaker of the Korean Peninsula.”

G20 Summit Leader — Russia

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been conspicuously slow to comment on U.S. election results this time around, given that he was one of the first leaders to reach out and congratulate Trump on his victory in 2016.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin would remain quiet, because “there will be certain legal proceedings which were announced by the incumbent president and that’s why we believe it would be correct to wait for the official announcement."

G20 Summit Leader — Canada

Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the first world leaders to speak with Biden after he won the election. In a statement after the call, Trudeau said he and Biden had “worked with each other before, and we’re ready to pick up on that work and tackle the challenges and opportunities facing our two countries — including climate change and covid-19.”

Trump and Trudeau have clashed several times over the past four years. In a Twitter tirade in 2018, Trump called Trudeau “dishonest” and “weak.”

G20 Summit Leader — Mexico

Mexico

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing populist who makes a point of flying commercial for state visits, may seem an unlikely ally to Trump, who launched his first campaign by smearing some Mexican undocumented immigrants as “rapists.” But the two have shared a close bond.

López Obrador has yet to congratulate Biden, saying the U.S. election is not yet finalized. “We can’t make any kind of recognition of a government that is not yet legally and legitimately constituted,” he said at a news conference on Nov. 11. Experts speculate he sees in Trump’s battle his own political losses: In 2006, when the Mexican president lost a close election congratulations rolled in for the winner Felipe Calderon as López Obrador alleged fraud.

G20 Summit Leader — Italy

Italy

Trump and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte have a warm relationship. “American President Trump once more has proved to be Italy’s true and loyal friend,” the nationalist, anti-establishment leader told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in April, when his country was in the throes of a brutal first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The former law professor also expressed warm congratulations to Biden the day he was declared the winner, praising the “American people and institutions for an outstanding turnout of Democratic vitality,” even as Trump continued to claim without evidence that the election was rigged.

G20 Summit Leader — Brazil

Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, dubbed the “Trump of the tropics,” has lived up to his nickname: He has yet to congratulate Biden on his win, and has called into question whether the U.S. election was really over amid Trump’s legal challenges to the results.

“Have the elections already finished?” he asked supporters last week.

Trump and Bolsonaro, populist leaders who share a brash political style and emphasis on national security, have long maintained a warm relationship. In October, the Brazilian president called Trump to wish him luck in the election.

G20 Summit Leader — Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

At last year’s G-20 summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed posed for the “family photo” beside Trump — a year after he began to face icy treatment around the world following Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi King Salman waited a day after Biden’s win was called to offer congratulations. Saudi state news agency SPA reported that the king “praised the distinguished, historic and close relations between the two friendly countries.”

G20 Summit Leader — Argentina

Argentina

Argentine President Alberto Fernández and Trump have had polite relations, with the U.S. president calling the South American leader to congratulate him on winning his election last November. Fernández said he emphasized his “intention to maintain mature and cordial relationship with the United States” on the call.

But the center-left politician was also the first Latin American leader to congratulate Biden on victory, and praised U.S. democracy.

G20 Summit Leader — Japan

Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga congratulated Biden soon after the election results were announced. He said the pair would strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance and work “together on achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Suga took office in September, after former prime minister Shinzo Abe stepped down because of health issues. He and Trump have not had the chance to meet in person.

G20 Summit Leader — Australia

Australia

At a rally in Ohio last year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he and Trump “share a lot of the same views.” He also said he could tell Trump had “tremendous support” from Americans.

Morrison congratulated Biden shortly after the results were announced, and later spoke to Biden by phone and posted a photo of himself smiling at his desk during their call. He suggested he would invite Biden to Australia next year.

G20 Summit Leader — China

China

China was initially hesitant to comment on the U.S. election results. Nearly a week after the race was called in favor of Biden, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin congratulated Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris. “We respect the American people’s choice,” he said.

Trump has leveled blame for the pandemic against China, where coronavirus cases were first recorded late last year. In August, Trump said the pandemic had damaged his relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “I had a great relationship with President Xi,” he told Fox Sports Radio. “I like him, but I don’t feel the same way now.”

G20 Summit Leader — European Council

European Council

Trump’s presidency turned transatlantic ties frosty, and upon Biden’s election, European Council President Charles Michel told European ambassadors: “We must revive, and renew, our trans-Atlantic alliance."

Michel is relatively new to the job and has not made many comments about Trump as an individual. The pair met in Brussels in 2017, when Michel was serving as Belgian prime minister. He emphasized at the time that the relationship between the two countries is “very important.”

G20 Summit Leader — Germany

Germany

The relationship between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Trump has been tense all along.

In a 2017 interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, she said that globalization is understood by the “American administration more as a process that is not about a win-win situation but about winners and losers.” When Biden was projected to win the election, she promptly congratulated him, later praising him for “decades of experience in domestic and foreign policy.”

“He knows Germany and Europe well,” she said.

G20 Summit Leader — India

India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought out a close relationship with Trump, with the pair even sharing a stage at a “Howdy Modi” rally in Texas last year. Modi said at the time that Trump has “concern for every American, a belief in America’s future and a strong resolve to make America great again.”

He has congratulated Biden on his win, calling it a “spectacular victory.” He also spoke with him by phone.

G20 Summit Leader — Britain

Britain

Last year, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Trump has “many, many good qualities.” As president, he said Trump was seeing results and that “we should pay tribute to that.”

But Johnson was quick to recognize Biden’s win this month and later described Trump, who is set to remain in office through January, as the “previous president” while speaking to British lawmakers.

G20 Summit Leader — South Africa

South Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulated Biden in a Nov. 8 statement. On Tuesday, the two shared a call, during which they discussed combating the coronavirus pandemic and strengthening U.S.-Africa relations, Ramaphosa’s office said in a readout of the conversation.

In 2018, the South African president told CNN Trump was “ill-informed” after the president tweeted about a common white nationalist conspiracy theory that White farmers are being killed in large numbers in South Africa. Critics castigated Trump over his decision to weigh in.

About this story

Photo provided by Meshari-Alharbi/DGDA; AP. Editing by Benjamin Soloway. Photo editing by Olivier Laurent. Copy editing by Frances Moody. Design and development by Junne Alcantara.

Siobhán O’Grady writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. She previously freelanced across Africa and worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy magazine. Since joining The Post, she has reported from Cameroon and Afghanistan.
Ruby Mellen edits the Today's WorldView newsletter and reports on foreign affairs for the Washington Post.