Monday 16 September 2019

Editorial: 'Blazes in rainforests were an omen for G7 discord'

A house is seen surrounded by land scorched by wildfires near Porto Velho (Victor R. Caivano/AP)
A house is seen surrounded by land scorched by wildfires near Porto Velho (Victor R. Caivano/AP)


The fires burning in the rainforests of Brazil serve as an apt metaphor for fragility in our world order. When meetings like the G7, established to promote agreement and strength in unity, present more as a showcase of difference, we need pause for thought.

Politically and economically, the headwinds gathering across the planet have been more fanned than becalmed by the summit.

European Council president Donald Tusk has made himself the voice of doom of late. His warning that US President Donald Trump's trade wars could tip the world into a global recession appeared to have been shrugged off by the US leader.

We have grown accustomed to Mr Trump's penchant for airing more grievances than guidance for global powers of late.

Asked whether he had any second thoughts about the ramping up of stakes in his showdown with China, Mr Trump replied: "Sure, I have second thoughts about lots of things."

Nor was there much in the way of reassurance in finding common purpose from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Commenting on the prospect of a Brexit deal, Mr Johnson could only say the likelihood was "touch and go".

However, he was quick to insist failure to reach an accord would be the fault of the European Union.

Tellingly, he also refused to repeat his previous assertion that the odds of a no-deal outcome were a million to one.

Increasingly, Mr Trump and Mr Johnson are taking the same myopic approach in their international responsibilities.

Alliances and agreements that have underpinned financial stability and security are in danger of being torn up.

Last year, Kieran McQuinn of the ESRI warned a global trade war could be almost more threatening for Ireland than Brexit, given that we would have no control over it.

He said the Government has some input into how the UK's EU exit might pan out, but that won't be the case if one of the trade disputes turns into a full-scale trade war between the world's two economic superpowers.

In the days leading up to the summit, Mr Trump ratcheted up his row with China, attacked Denmark for not selling Greenland to the US, declared the world to be in recession, lambasted his own central bank chairman, threatened tariffs against several G7 nations and called for G7 outcasts Russia to be readmitted to the group.

Mr Trump's continued embrace of his 'America First' agenda and Mr Johnson's take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to Brussels, suggest an era of exceptionalism is upon us.

With so many storms to weather, we will be entirely dependent on the walls of the safe harbour of the EU to hold firm.

It is critical to remember even if some are intent on turning their back on a shared past, there is also a shared future to think about.

Irish Independent

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