U.S President Donald Trump has lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron, right, at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, southwestern France, Saturday. Photo: Pool via AP
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Squabbles erupt as G7 leaders open summit in French resort

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Squabbles erupted among G7 nations on Saturday as their leaders gathered for an annual summit, exposing sharp differences on global trade tensions, Britain's exit from the EU and how to respond to the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

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

Macron set an agenda for the group - France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - that included the defense 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."

U.S. President Donald Trump brought last year's G7 summit to an acrimonious end, walking out early from the gathering in Canada 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 5% duty on some $550 billion worth 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 U.S. companies.

Two U.S. 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 on Saturday to disperse anti-capitalism protesters in Bayonne, near Biarritz. A police helicopter circled as protesters taunted lines of police.

The leaders themselves were gathering behind tight security in a waterfront conference venue, the surrounding streets barricaded by police.

Macron opened the summit with a dinner at the base of a clifftop lighthouse overlooking Biarritz, at which a menu of piperade, a Basque vegetable specialty, tuna and French cheeses awaited the leaders.

Adding to the unpredictable dynamic between the G7 leaders are the new realities facing Brexit-bound Britain: dwindling influence in Europe and growing dependency on the United States.

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson will want to strike a balance between not alienating Britain's European allies and not irritating Trump and possibly jeopardising future trade ties. Johnson and Trump will hold bilateral talks on Sunday morning.

Johnson and European Council head Donald Tusk sparred before the summit over who would be to blame if Britain leaves the EU on Oct 31 without a withdrawal agreement in place.

Tusk told reporters he was open to ideas from Johnson on how to avoid a no-deal Brexit when the two men meet on Sunday.

"I still hope that PM Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr No Deal," said Tusk, who as council president leads the political direction of the 28-nation European Union.

Johnson, who has said since he took office last month that he will take the country out of the bloc on Oct. 31 regardless of whether a deal can be reached, later retorted that it would be Tusk himself who would carry the mantle if Britain could not secure a new withdrawal agreement.

"I would say to our friends in the EU if they don't want a no-deal Brexit then we've got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty," Johnson told reporters, referring to the Irish border protocol that would keep the border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland open after Brexit.

"If Donald Tusk doesn't want to go down as Mr No Deal then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him too," Johnson said on his flight to France.

Johnson is trying to persuade EU leaders to drop the backstop from a withdrawal agreement that was negotiated by his predecessor but rejected three times by the British parliament as the United Kingdom struggles to fulfill a 2016 referendum vote to leave the bloc.

Despite the Brexit tensions, diplomats played down the likelihood of Trump and Johnson joining hands against the rest, citing Britain's foreign policy alignment with Europe on issues from Iran and trade to climate change.

"There won't be a G5+2," one senior G7 diplomat said.

Indeed, Johnson said he would tell Trump to pull back from a trade war that is already destabilising economic growth around the world.

"This is not the way to proceed," he said. "Apart from everything else, those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether or not that is true."

Anti-summit protests have become common, and on Saturday thousands of anti-globalization activists, Basque separatists and "yellow vest" protesters marched peacefully across France's border with Spain to demand action from the leaders.

"It's more money for the rich and nothing for the poor," said Alain Missana, an electrician wearing a yellow vest - symbol of anti-government protests that have rattled France for months.

EU leaders piled pressure on Friday on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

Even so, Britain and Germany were at odds with Macron's decision to pressure Brazil by blocking a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur group of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said not concluding the trade deal was "not the appropriate answer to what is happening in Brazil now."

The UK's Johnson also appeared to disagree with Macron on how to respond.

"There are all sorts of people who will take any excuse at all to interfere with trade and to frustrate trade deals and I don't want to see that," he said.

Lowered expectations nothing new

Lowered expectations are nothing new for the G7, but this year's intent seems to be just to avoid diplomatic catastrophe, salvage the possible, and show voters that their leaders have a role on the world stage. One force that could push leaders together is their joint vulnerability to an economic slowdown, especially the ones who, like Trump, are facing elections in the next year or two.

Disputes on trade have unsettled the global economy because businesses don't know where tariffs will be imposed or what the trading system will look like in a world that has become dependent on supplies of materials, parts and goods flowing through intricate cross-border supply chains.

Given lowered expectations the most important summit outcome would be "to do no harm," said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London. "Have a discussion without a bust-up, no repeat of Charlevoix, please."

A "dream result" would be the EU, U.S. and Japan agreeing to jointly tackle their trade issues with China, but "with America-First Trump that seems too much to hope for," he said.

All eyes will be on the dynamic between Trump and Johnson , two figures who relish the unpredictability they have sown. Johnson is under intense pressure to pull Britain out of the EU and many see his relationship with the United States as key.

Johnson and Tusk sat across a small table with Macron, Merkel, and Italy's caretaker leader Guiseppe Conte, who was its prime minister until just a few days ago.

Conte is not the only G7 leader in a weak position.

Merkel is in her last term of office. Canadian leader Justin Trudeau, up for re-election this fall, is at the center of a political scandal . Macron himself is deeply unpopular at home, and the yellow vest protesters who have plagued him since last year have followed him to Biarritz. Only Japan's Shinzo Abe, who overwhelmingly won re-election earlier this summer, appeared solid back home.

And even Abe faced his own diplomatic tangle, as South Korea backed out of an intelligence sharing deal with Japan over a trade dispute — and over U.S. objections.

Biarritz itself was in a subdued mood after being locked down during the final week of the summer break for most of France. The appropriately named Bellevue congress center where the leaders gathered Saturday night overlooks the carefully raked sandy beach beloved by surfers and swimmers alike. It was empty.

© Thomson Reuters/The Associated Press

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


45 Comments

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For some reason, I can't imagine a more fun observation post than here in Canada. La-la Land, I like to call it. But, then, I've seen all this crap, from being a candidate to friends in Cabinet. Toooooo much fun!!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Chinese imports

What the effect will be for US consumers is anybody's guess. Does anyone know if the trademarks Trump/Ivanka Inc. arranged with the CCP will be affected?

"We'll accomplish a lot this weekend."

Who's the 'we' Trump's referring to. Spoiled class rich like Trump have shown they don't know how to give to anyone, especially their country, only take for himself. Trump's spat with the Federal reserve another case in point.

President Trump stands to save millions of dollars annually in interest on outstanding loans on his hotels and resorts if the Federal Reserve lowers rates as he has been demanding, according to public filings and financial experts. 

Trump playing golf at his properties and making US taxpayers pay for it yet more more example of Trump's hyper me-centrism.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Going to the G7 with grievances is the lazyman's way out. It is harder, and requires work and vision to go with solutions and work to get everyone on board. We have learned to expect only lazyiness and grievances from this worst of all US presidents.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

One of the biggest issues with the G7 is that it represents some of the things they are trying to fight. Equality. The G7 doesn't represent equality at all. It supposedly the 7 best countries. That is already an elitist environment. 7 countries, regardless of how much wealth they control, cannot decide the fate of the world. An example would be the environment. They want to make decisions on the environment when 2 of the top 5 producers of pollution and CO2 emissions are not in the G7. They want to protect democracy. Two of the G7 are not democracies. The US isn't even a real democracy. Also, what kind of discussions could they hope to have about changing the world and the US/China issue when China isn't even in the G7. When the world's second largest economy and one of the top 3 trade partners for each of the G7 countries is not represented, you can't really do anything.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

A gathering that includes Donny breaking down into acrimonious squabbling?! What a shocker. Wake me when there is actual news like Donny not lying for an hour or not getting into school-yard fights on twitter.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

"It's more money for the rich and nothing for the poor," said Alain Missana

That about sums it up!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Squabbles is an accurate term when 6 adults have to host a screaming, spoiled, two-year old...

I think we all know who that is...

The neon orange one...

7 ( +10 / -3 )

China isn't even in the G7. When the world's second largest economy and one of the top 3 trade partners for each of the G7 countries is not represented, you can't really do anything.

it's about democracies not dictatorships!

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

@sf2k

Two of the G7 are not democracies. Furthermore, the US is not really a democracy either. So find another reason.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Going to the G7 with grievances is the lazyman's way out. It is harder, and requires work and vision to go with solutions and work to get everyone on board.

You know that requirement and resentment goes both ways.

We have learned to expect only lazyiness and grievances from this worst of all US presidents.

I’m sure he thinks the exact opposite about a few of the EU leaders.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Of course there would be squabbles, since Trump is an outsider among the corrupt globalist swamp dwellers like Macaroni, Merkel, and Trudeau. Count your blessings that it is not Clinton in the White House.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

Of course there would be squabbles, since Trump is an outsider among the corrupt globalist swamp dwellers like Macaroni, Merkel, and Trudeau.

Dang straight - we don't want any of those Western leaders that support freedom, human rights, and democracy.... We want fellow fascists - Putin, Xi, Kim, The Mullahs - those are our kind of leaders...Just ask Trump!

Count your blessings that it is not Clinton in the White House.

That's what Putin said....

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Of course there would be squabbles, since Trump is an outsider among the corrupt globalist swamp dwellers like Macaroni, Merkel, and Trudeau

Trump is a plutocrat who gives tax breaks to fellow plutocrats, bloats the military, spends and racks up debt like a socialist and sells patriotism like a used car salesman.

He might be an outsider in some sense but he’s pretty predictably Republican in most ways. Everything I mentioned him doing was what Bush 2 did.

He’s a swamp creature.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Trump is an outsider 

Alt fact. Trump's feeding from the same trough as the other global power brokers; he's one of them. The only thing that might be unclear is which faction he's most closely aligned with.

corrupt globalist  

Are you using the term the same way the Nazis did in the 1930s?

swamp dwellers

Look at the list of swampmen Trump's hired and appointed to key White House positions.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Trump is probably trying to pass out his made-in-China MAGA hats to everyone as well as showing off his made-in-China ties. Ivanka is also probably trying to promote her made-in-China merchandise.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

swamp dwellers

Look at the list of swampmen Trump's hired and appointed to key White House positions.

It’s shocking. It’s a festering swamp with nepotism added for good measure.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

"There won't be a G5+2," one senior G7 diplomat said. If there is, +2 will the the US and Russia...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

new secret weapon in trade wars now. The Trump is no pussy and means biig business unlike his mindless puppet 0bama. Pres Trump often mentioning Economic powers act 1977 so here what all about.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Emergency_Economic_Powers_Act#/media/File:Great_Seal_of_the_UnitedStates(obverse).svg

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Turns out Abe and Trump are the two most popular leaders of the G-7 countries. Macron - least popular of the bunch

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-08-23/at-the-g7-trump-s-approval-rating-is-second-to-one?srnd=opinion

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

"Donald Trump is an unpopular president. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average as of Friday afternoon, only 43.3% of Americans approve of his performance. FiveThirtyEight, which weights polls by quality, sample size and partisan lean, puts the average at 41.6%."

The other G7 leaders fall shorter.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@wolfpack

Did you notice the article is in the “opinion” section?

Also, I think Trump is the most entertaining leader amongst the world leaders. Second will probably end up being the new UK PM. Abe is the only world leader I can recall to dress up. The Mario costume touched the world.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Could Trump even pronounce words during the summit? In speeches this past week his senility showed quite clearly in his inability to pronounce a bunch of words, liked "armed forces" (he could only say "arm force" or whatever it was, he couldn't properly pronounce verbs in his attack on Denmark's leader after his moronic attempt to buy Greenland, and lest we forget the "oranges" of all this. It is 100% proof of neurological disorders.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

There's Trump and then there are the other G6.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I’m sure he thinks the exact opposite about a few of the EU leaders.

Hilarious. You're saying that Donny thinks EU leaders are not lazy and do not have grievances. It's always fun to watch you agree that Donny is repugnant on your haste to disagree.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Jj jetplane:

"Two of the G7 are not democracies. The US isn't even a real democracy."

Which 2 are not democracies: Canada, UK, Germany, France, US, Japan, Italy? Those 7 are the G7. It can be argued that the US is imbalanced towards the executive and Japan is a dominant party nation, but both are still democracies.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

since Trump is an outsider among the corrupt globalist swamp dwellers like Macaroni, Merkel, and Trudeau. 

Agree that Trump is an outsider, disagree with your 'why' though. Colin Khal & Robert Kelly nailed it a couple of days ago on twitter (esp Kelly imo);

Colin Kahl:

"Why does Trump hate the G7? Because:

—it’s a deeply substantive gathering that exposes his shallowness

—there are no parades

—it’s multilateral & he can’t play well with others

—he has to talk to leaders from democracies & he only likes despots."

Kelly:

"The first one is the core problem, undercuts his whole presidency. Trump doesn’t read and has none of the nuance, sophistication, and critical thinking skills that a life of reading would give a person his age. Hence, rallies instead of speeches, ‘friendship’ instead of diplomacy."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@JuminRhee

The US is a Democratic Republic. Not a Democracy.

Japan and the UK are not Democracies. The are parliamentary democratic societies under a monarchy system. That is not a democracy. It has democratic principles but it is not a democracy.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

In the UK, while parliament makes the laws, the process of royal assent must still be followed. While the Queen has never declined to approve a bill, she actually still does have the power and can chose to decline a bill and there would be no way to challenge it under their system.

The Queen can also dismiss a prime minister and appoint a new one without the approval of the people or parliament. While she doesn’t exercise those powers, she still has them.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

America has no partners, no allies. What America has is a few nations too frightened to stand up it, too intimidated to stand up for their own people. This is what happens when nations continually appease a bully.

Since Trump entered the WH, all we have had is mayhem and disorder - China, Iran, Venezuela, HK, Russia, trade wars, abuse of "allies", increase in military spending, exiting from treaties and agreements. Total chaos.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Democracy Index

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

3 ( +3 / -0 )

America has no partners, no allies. 

Your own country Australia has been an American ally for more than 100 years fighting alongside them in many wars.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The first one is the core problem, undercuts his whole presidency. Trump doesn’t read and has none of the nuance, sophistication, and critical thinking skills that a life of reading would give a person his age. Hence, rallies instead of speeches, ‘friendship’ instead of diplomacy

Spot on. I often hear that Trump is refreshing in that he isn’t a cookie-cutter politician. The problem is that regardless of what your background is, you still need to know relevant stuff. Listening to Trump speak on matters of vital importance is mind-blowingly awful. Watching fake news, biased MSM idiocy like Fox and Friends just doesn’t cut it as an education.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

so why does this group still exist? it was supposed to be an "elite" club yet now they arent actually elite anymore.. what difference do they make these days?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

zichï: "Your own country Australia has been an American ally for more than 100 years fighting alongside them in many wars."

True, Australia has also been intimidated and bullied by the US. Australia has also been hoping that it would be made the US deputy in the Pacific. When Australia asked the US for help in Timor, what did the US say? Forget it, they refused to send peacekeeping troops to help Australia. Again, the US has no allies, just intimidated lapdogs.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Donald Trump playing hardball for America. This is the kind of leader you want. Someone who's not afraid to ruffle some feathers to stand up for American interests.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Macron set an agenda for the group - France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - that included the defense 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.

If they expect the U.S. to foot the bill on these issues, Trump has every right to walk out and I hope he does. Let them pay for their own solutions.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Donald Trump playing hardball for America. This is the kind of leader you want. Someone who's not afraid to ruffle some feathers to stand up for American interests.

But if the result ends up being countless of needless deaths, dividing people, crashing economies, and hurting the lives of many, then I want no part of that kind of President.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Fairly certain that most Americans don't care what the Heads of States from any of these country's have to say, why would we. Now if Trump me with both Russia and China, that's intetesting but France, UK, Canada... LOL, yawn.

Fun fact, the state of California has a larger econmy than most of the countries on the G7 team.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Donald Trump playing hardball for America.

Gee, I thought it was 4D chess? Anyway, what the Dimwit is playing is marbles - a game only someone with his limited two-year old intellect can understand. Marbles as in "if I don't get my way I'm taking all my marbles and going home".... WHAAA....WHAAA.....

This is the kind of leader you want.

Say's Putin..

Someone who's not afraid to ruffle some feathers to stand up for American interests.

Replace America with Russia and you hit the nail on the head....

0 ( +2 / -2 )

America has no partners, no allies.

What? Australia, UK, Israel, France, Spain...depending on if they have a socialist in power, the Swedes

What America has is a few nations too frightened to stand up it,

They know where their bread is buttered and they wouldn’t need to.

too intimidated to stand up for their own people. This is what happens when nations continually appease a bully. 

Bully, we never asked Europe for anything, but if you think asking to pay their fair share instead of us taking the majority of responsibility of taking care of Europe militarily as being a bully, then good and we should.

Since Trump entered the WH, all we have had is mayhem and disorder

Yes, from the first day the Democrats saw that their scheme didn’t work it was all downhill from there, not to mention their surrogate minions in the media have been desperately trying to do everything possible to undermine this President, they tried the Russian collusion, Stormy, race and now recession and none of it is working.

China, Iran, Venezuela, HK, Russia, *

Especially these rogue nations.

trade wars, abuse of "allies", increase in military spending, exiting from treaties and agreements. Total chaos.

I would say the opposite.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

True, Australia has also been intimidated and bullied by the US. Australia has also been hoping that it would be made the US deputy in the Pacific. When Australia asked the US for help in Timor, what did the US say? Forget it, they refused to send peacekeeping troops to help Australia. Again, the US has no allies, just intimidated lapdogs.

But when China comes knocking on Australia’s shores, the US will definitely be there and there’s a high possibility that could happen because Australia alone can’t handle China.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

But when China comes knocking on Australia’s shores

Are you saying China will invade Australia?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@basf4 But when China comes knocking on Australia’s shores, the US will definitely be there 

Doubtful. Trump has too many busy deals arranged with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He's not going to jeopardize them. And given China's wealth, he probably sees the real estate opportunities there. Who knows, he may even try to get back in the casino business. No chance that will happen while he's in office.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Correction: Doubtful. Trump has too many business deals arranged with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),

3 ( +3 / -0 )

bass4funk: "Australia alone can’t handle China"

And neither can the US which is why they ago around cap in hand.

"the US will definitely be there

In every US military misadventure since WWII, the US has gone cap in hand. Tell me of one dispute since WWII that the US has not begged for HELP? As I keep saying, without so-called allies. the US is a drop in the bucket.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

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