Disagreements erupted at the beginning of G7 summit
Macron and Trump had lunch together but differences emerged behind smilesEuropost
Squabbles erupted among G7 nations on Saturday as their leaders gathered for an annual summit in the French resort of Biarritz, news wires reported. French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit host, planned the three-day meeting as a chance to unite a group of wealthy countries that has struggled in recent years to speak with one voice.
However, European Council President Donald Tusk admitted 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."
US President Donald Trump arrived in France a day after responding to a new round of Chinese tariffs by announcing that Washington would impose an additional 5% duty on some $550bn worth of Chinese imports, the latest escalation of the tit-for-tat trade war 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, and said they shared the objective of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Trump later wrote on Twitter that lunch with Macron was the best meeting the pair has yet had, and that a meeting with world leaders on Saturday evening also "went very well."
However, the initial smiles could not disguise the opposing approaches of Trump and Macron to many problems, including the knotty questions 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.
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. Britain’s PM 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.
Johnson and Tusk sparred before the summit over who would be to blame if Britain leaves the EU on 31 October without a withdrawal agreement. Tusk told reporters he was open to ideas from Johnson on how to avoid a no-deal Brexit when the two men meet. "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 Britain out of the bloc on 31 October 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. 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 UK 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.