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The forthcoming G7 summit represents a culmination of Mr. Trump’s frequent disagreements with allies of the U.S. juxtaposed with his embrace of Russia, writes Sara Shapiro.
In two days, the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France will begin. The event will bring together global leaders to discuss the global economy, foreign policy, security, and climate change. President Trump has criticized and angered many of the leaders in attendance in the past and at last year’s summit was the subject of much controversy. He has recently rekindled such summit-related controversy, stating that Russia should be reintegrated into future summits despite its refusal to give back Crimea to Ukraine. Read more to learn about the upcoming summit’s schedule, topics of discussion, and anticipated controversies.
In two days, the G7 Summit will begin in Biarritz, France. “G7” refers to the Group of 7 industrialized nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. Mr. Macron, the president of France, is also welcoming Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Senegal, Rwanda, and South Africa to the summit.
The summit represents a culmination of Mr. Trump’s frequent disagreements with allies of the U.S. juxtaposed with his embrace of Russia. It will also be the first appearance of Mr. Johnson, the unpredictable prime minister of the U.K., at a major global conference.
According to a senior Trump administration official, the following schedule will be observed at the summit: On Saturday, August 24th, there will be an informal dinner of the G7 leaders at which foreign policy and security will be discussed; on Sunday, August 25th, there will be a discussion on the global economy in the morning (a meeting requested by the U.S.), a forum on “fighting against inequality” focusing on gendered opportunities in the marketplace, a discussion on the partnership between the G7 and the African continent involving the African countries invited by Mr. Macron, and a family photo and informal dinner among all of the economies and international organizations invited; and, finally, on Monday there will be a discussion about “climate, biodiversity, and oceans,” a working lunch on the digital transformation of the global economy, and a closing session for the G7 economies, which will include a press conference.
The senior administration official stressed that Mr. Trump was pushing for discussions surrounding the global economy to be the centerpiece of this year’s summit, meaning that he will be engaging in “pro jobs, pro growth” rhetoric and will stress his own investment policies, his focus on energy, and his commitment to “free, fair, and reciprocal trade,” which has brought “hundreds of thousands” of jobs back to the U.S. economy.
Despite this rhetoric, according to Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: “Foreign investment in the United States grew at a slower annual pace in the first two years of Mr. Trump’s tenure than during Barack Obama’s presidency” and “data show fewer than 30,000 jobs that companies say they will relocate to the United States because of Mr. Trump’s tariffs on imported steel, aluminum, solar panels, washing machines and a variety of Chinese goods.” This is further compounded by the fact that, according to the same article, “Mr. Trump’s trade policies, including tariffs, had pushed factory activity not to the United States but to low-cost Asian countries other than China, like Vietnam.”
Mr. Trump will also be stressing the need for multilateral, not unilateral, reform, including with regard to the World Trade Organization (WTO) – how to bring it into the 21st century and how to assess whether it is equipped to deal with “nonmarket” and “digital economies.”
It is traditional for G7 summits to end with what is known as a joint final communiqué, representing the ability for the states to reach resolution. However, Mr. Macron announced that this year’s summit will produce no such agreement, saying: “No one reads the communiqués, let’s be honest. And in recent times you read the communiqués only to detect disagreements.”
Mr. Macron’s decision is a clear reaction to last year’s communiqué debacle: At the 2018 G7 summit, Mr. Trump chose not to sign the joint final communiqué following arguments with Mr. Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister. After Mr. Trudeau released the communiqué, the U.S. president tweeted: “Based on [Trudeau’s] false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!”
The G7 summit also offers ample opportunities for bilateral meetings between the involved states. President Trump will be engaging in bilateral talks with the following state leaders: U.K. Prime Minister Johnson, French President Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Abe, Indian Prime Minister Modi, German Chancellor Merkel, and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. During the meetings, the senior administration official stated that the president will be emphasizing his “agenda of improving world trade and prosperity.”
In the meeting with Mr. Johnson, the official noted that this will be the first in-person meeting between the two leaders since the change in U.K. leadership. On their agenda is how to enhance the “close partnership that the U.S. and U.K enjoy,” as well as Brexit and the “possibility of a free trade agreement or free trade agreements” between the two states.
With Mr. Macron, Mr. Trump is expected to focus on trade, “the importance of removing European barriers to trade,” the Middle East and North Africa region, and the “highly discriminatory digital services tax,” which – according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative – “imposes a 3% tax on annual revenues generated by some companies that provide certain digital services to, or aimed at, French users.”
In his talk with Ms. Merkel, the president will primarily speak about trade, energy security and “the importance of diminishing European reliance on Russian gas sources,” and the importance of all NATO countries spending 2% of their GDP to maintaining the NATO alliance and enacting its policies, which Germany was found to be falling short of.
The senior administration official stressed that “the U.S. and Canada are very close friends and partners” and that the two leaders will discuss the USMCA, the political protests in Hong Kong, and how to best “increase pressure on Maduro in Venezuela” during their bilateral meeting. With Mr. Abe, Mr. Trump plans to focus on how to “open up [Japanese] markets for U.S. workers and farmers.”
The president’s bilateral meeting with Mr. Modi will prove especially fruitful. Currently, India – the world’s largest democracy – is embroiled in intense conflict regarding the Kashmir territory, of which part is administered by Mr. Modi’s government and of which the rest is administered by Pakistan’s government. Earlier this month, India got rid of Article 370 of its constitution, which gave Kashmir a privileged status and granted it autonomy over its politics. Kashmir is the only Indian state with a Muslim majority and Mr. Modi’s move to revoke the state’s privileges is being seen as a move to oppress India’s Muslim population. Recently, India’s army and police have employed excessively forceful tactics to put down peaceful protests in the state; Kashmir is now in lockdown, and according to the New York Times: “International rights groups and Kashmiris say ordinary citizens are unable to reach hospitals because of Indian security checkpoints, and medical and food stocks ran low shortly after India stripped the region of its autonomy…”
The senior administration official said that the president is “very much looking forward to his meeting” with Mr. Modi and will be bringing up their “strategic partnership” and “how they can cooperate more closely on issues of counterrorism and trade.” Regarding Kashmir, the official said that Mr. Trump is expected to ask Mr. Modi “how he plans to reduce regional tensions and uphold respect for human rights in Kashmir” and will “stress the need for dialogue.”
Mr. Trump has already spoken with the leaders of India and Pakistan regarding the Kashmir conflict. On August 19, the president tweeted: “Spoke to my two good friends, Prime Minister Modi of India, and Prime Minister Kahn of Pakistan, regarding Trade, Strategic Partnerships and, most importantly, for India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir. A tough situation, but good conversations!”
Earlier, in July, Mr. Trump wrongly asserted that Mr. Modi had asked him mediate between India and Pakistan. This angered the Indian government and Raveesh Kumar, the external affairs spokesperson, tweeted: “No such request has been made by PM [Modi] to US President. It has been India’s consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally…”
Regarding the discussion on “climate, biodiversity, and oceans,” the senior administration official said that the U.S., and specifically the Trump administration, has “one of the best records on earth when it comes to biodiversity and clean air and water as well as carbon emissions.” The official also stressed that the president “doesn’t think that environmental protection needs to cost economic growth or security.”
This, despite the fact that the president has tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” This, despite the fact that the president has said: “I believe there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways.” This, despite the fact that in 2018, greenhouse gas emissions rose by 3.4% in the U.S. This, despite the Flint clean water crisis that exposed the deeply ingrained environmental racism that plagued, and continues to plague, America’s communities of color. This, despite the fact that one of the reasons there will be no communiqué is, as Mr. Macon said: “If we draft an agreement about the Paris [climate] accord, President Trump won’t agree. It’s pointless.”
It is, therefore, hard to believe that Mr. Trump will serve as an advocate for multilateral action to fight the ongoing climate crisis at the summit.
In response to questions regarding the president’s past climate change denial, the senior administration official simply reiterated that America has a “very strong record” and that the U.S. should not have to sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment.
Controversy has erupted over the possibility of Russia re-entering the G7 for next year’s summit, which will be held in the U.S. Russia was excluded from the G8 in 2014 after President Putin annexed Crimea. From then on, the summit consisted of only seven countries and the G8 became the G7.
Recently, however, President Trump argued that Russia should be readmitted to the group, echoing comments he made prior to the G7 summit that occurred last year. He told reporters, “I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in” because “a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia.” This is not out of character for the president; at the end of last year’s summit he said, “I would rather see Russia in the G8 as opposed to the G7. I would say that the G8 is a more meaningful group than the G7. Absolutely.”
In response to questions on the matter, the senior administration official maintained that the president “did speak to this issue this week already” and although he said that “it would be good if the Russians were there,” he is not “necessarily opining one way or the other.” However, based on the president’s own words, it seems clear that Mr. Trump does in fact have an opinion as to Russia’s inclusion at future summits.
According to White House sources, Mr. Macron apparently agreed with Mr. Trump over the phone that Russia could be invited back to the summit in 2020, despite the fact that the French leader said the next day, “I think to say that without any conditions Russia can return to the table would be signing off the weakness of the G7,” calling into question the validity of the American sources.
Ukraine and the E.U. have also expressed their opposition to allowing Russia back into the group. Mr. Zelenskiy, the president of Ukraine, said, “Ukrainian Crimea is being occupied as before, Ukrainian Donbas is suffering from war.” An E.U. official expressed similar concerns, saying that, “The E.U. remains strongly of the view that the reasons for Russia’s exclusion in 2014 from the then-G8 are still valid today as they were valid five years ago.”
The G7 summit will be important to follow closely to see how Mr. Trump works with world leaders that he has previously expressed contempt for and for how it will reveal the challenges of multilateral cooperation in an age of rising nationalism and global threats to democracy.
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