Missing links: Trump goes golfing in middle of G20 summit

US President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club

Trump was set to beam in to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from the White House Situation Room for a meeting chaired by King Salman and attended by the leaders of 19 leading world economies.

"We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance", King Salman said in his opening remarks.

Trump's morning commentary and absence from the coronavirus side meeting comes as he has faced criticism both within the US and around the world for his response to the pandemic.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that China is ready to step up global COVID-19 vaccine cooperation, and called for better worldwide coordination on policies to facilitate movement of people. The Nov. 21-22, 2020, Group of 20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, will be held online this year because of the coronavirus.

Climate change was also expected to top the agenda, with the change of USA leadership raising hopes of a more concerted effort at G20 level to fight global warming. The United States tops the list, followed by India, Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, the UK, Argentina and Italy, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Coordinated efforts by the largest economies of the world will surely lead to faster recovery from this pandemic.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump had aligned himself closely with Saudi Arabia, hailing its purchases of US weapons and hostility toward US adversary Iran.

This is the second time this year that the G-20 has met virtually to discuss the pandemic.

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The virus shows no signs of abating as major cities in the USA and Europe bring back lockdowns and curfews. It's the first time an Arab nation has hosted the meeting, and campaigners see it at an opportunity to draw attention to the plight of jailed human rights defenders in the country.

European nations in the G20 will also seek fresh impetus to the stalled reform of the World Trade Organization, hoping to capitalize on the upcoming change of US administration.

High on the agenda of the G20 meeting are purchases and global distribution of vaccines, drugs and tests for low-income countries that can not afford such expenses themselves.

A day before the summit, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while $10 billion has been invested in efforts to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, another $28 billion is needed for mass manufacturing, procurement and delivery of new COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

Guterres called on more G-20 nations to join COVAX, an global initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide.

She also expressed hope that America's "new President-elect" Joe Biden will "increase multilateral cooperation" in areas like health and climate change, noting that until now "the United States has resisted engaging" in a rebuke of Trump's isolationist policies.

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