Thursday 19 September 2019

Economic storms hover above as Trump attends G7 leaders

Emmanuel Macron welcomes Donald Trump. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP
Emmanuel Macron welcomes Donald Trump. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP

William James in Biarritz

Squabbles erupted among G7 nations yesterday as their leaders gathered for the annual summit, exposing sharp differences on global trade, Brexit and how to respond to the fires in Brazil's rainforest.

France's President Macron, the summit host, planned the three-day meeting in the Atlantic seaside resort of Biarritz as a chance to unite the group of wealthy countries that has struggled in recent years to speak with one voice.

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Macron set an agenda for the group - France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US - that included the defence of democracy, gender equality, education and the environment. He invited Asian, African and Latin American leaders to join them for a global push on these issues. However, in a bleak assessment of relations between once-close allies, European Council President Donald Tusk said it was getting "increasingly" hard to find common ground.

"This is another G7 summit which will be a difficult test of unity and solidarity of the free world and its leaders," he told reporters ahead of the meeting. "This may be the last moment to restore our political community."

Donald Trump brought last year's G7 summit to an acrimonious end, walking out early and rejecting the final communique.

Trump arrived in France a day after responding to a new round of Chinese tariffs by announcing Washington would impose an additional 5pc duty on some $550bn of Chinese imports, the latest tit-for-tat trade war escalation by the world's two largest economies.

"So far so good," Trump told reporters as he sat on a seafront terrace with Macron, saying the two leaders had a special relationship. "We'll accomplish a lot this weekend."

Macron listed foreign policy issues the two would address, including Libya, Syria and North Korea, adding that they shared the objective of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

However, the initial smiles could not disguise their opposing approaches to many problems, including the knotty question of protectionism and tax. Before his arrival, Trump repeated a threat to tax French wines in retaliation for a new French levy on digital services, which he says unfairly targets US companies.

US officials said the Trump delegation was also irked that Macron had skewed the focus of the G7 meeting to "niche issues" at the expense of the global economy, which many leaders worry is slowing sharply and at risk of slipping into recession.

French riot police used water cannons and tear gas yesterday to disperse protesters near Biarritz.

Sunday Independent

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