At this full press conference after G7, Trump addressed tariffs against China, Japan, France, and Germany—appeared to be on good terms with Macron and Boris Johnson, and on bad terms with climate change.
President Trump and French President Macron got on surprisingly well at this G7, it seems. After an ignominious retreat from last year’s summit—he left early—Trump has apparently revised his opinion: “Last year was underrated,” he said. This year, though, was “great.”
The two presidents held a joint press conference at the close of this G7. The two flags, French and American were smooth and shiny and hung in near-perfect triangles. The backdrop was a stark and brilliant white, against which the two leader’s figures appeared almost silhouetted, 2-d.
Macron, going in, had his own misgivings—he acknowledged, repeatedly, his nervousness about meeting with President Trump. All nervousness was apparently extinguished by the end of the summit, though, as the two leaders hugged twice when Macron left. The first hug was a slow crash, perfunctory, forced, but when they pulled apart Macron went in for another more natural attempt. One can’t extrapolate too much from a PDA, but the president’s physical comfort with one another appeared supported what they said about the meeting; they said they had gotten along, and this was easier to believe once they’d hugged.
The rounds of questioning from the international press hit the big-ticket items from the summit
Once the ceremonial portion of the meeting ended, Trump had time to take all the, his words, “wonderful questions,” from the international press. “Here we go,” he said, exhausted, as it began.
The rounds of questioning from the international press hit the big-ticket items from the summit—nuclear Iran, trade with China, Russia’s absence from the summit (formerly known as the G8). There was also a series of questions, particularly representative of the political moment, with reporters from US allied nations asking, with the supplicant tone of a child asking forgiveness from a parent, whether Trump was really still thinking about pursuing tariffs against their exports. To each instance of this question, Trump’s answer was the same “no,” but “I can if I want.”
Trump was enthusiastic in defending his much-criticized tariffs against China, and optimistic about the possibility of a deal between China in the US being a possibility “soon.” Trump said that the tariffs have so far brought back 100 billion dollars to the US from China. The US and China currently have a trade deficit, with the US putting more into China’s economy than the US receives back. Trump said that if China was willing to negotiate, as their vice-chairmen last night announced they would, then the US would be willing to proceed with ‘calm’ negotiations.
On Iran, the topic which dominated the discussion for the longest time, Trump expressed his hope that the US would soon be able to negotiate a new deal with Iran, one more ‘long-term,’ which wouldn’t allow for the development of nuclear weapons. He criticized the former deal, saying it led to, a striking image, “Boeing 757’s,” of money being sent to the country. The Trump deal, the President said, would see that Iran gets compensation only in the form of a loan or credit. Trump emphasized several times his regard for Iranian people, telling a rather extended story about real estate developers he knew who had worked in the country and had told him, second hand, of the “incredible,” and “good” Iranian people.
From Iran, Trump pivoted, unprompted to North Korea. He spoke of Kim Jung Un, saying he believes the leader would be open to international economic development in his country. Trump envisions railroads traveling through the country, connecting China and Russia to South Korea.
Trump then moved on to discussing whether he would consider inviting Vladimir Putin back to the G7 summit, as he has inviting privileges as the executive of the host country: the summit will be in the US next year. He said he would “definitely” invite the Russian president—but that Putin may not be “psychologically able” to come. Trump said that the Russian president was a “proud” man and may not come to the summit again after having been kicked out.
Trump’s handling of the question about Russia’s return to G7 drew ire because of his repeated assertion that “Obama was outsmarted by Putin” in Syria and Crimea. He was asked a follow up question about his phrasing and he defended it.
He received three questions from UK press, all concerned in one way or another with America’s position on the UK and the EU now that they are soon to be separated. The reporter who put the question starkest put it like this: “Will the US be closer to the UK or to the EU.” Trump responded: “both.” He also, though, spoke better of Britain than he did of the European Union. He spoke highly of Boris Johnson, whom he says he likes, and teased the possibility of a trade deal. He criticized Brussels’ dealing abilities, saying they are “very challenging” to work with.
The final question was the most striking for this me. President Macron had left so that he needn’t, in Trump’s words, endure the “wonderful questions” from the American press. The questions had for the most part been, if not wonderful, then at least amicable—Trump was no less combative than usual, but he was more good-natured. The final question was about whether the American President has had his views changed by this summit with respect to climate change. Had his skepticism decreased? President Macron had said earlier that progress had been made on ‘biodiversity;’ this seemed promising.
Trump appeared to completely avoid the question, but, in reality, gave what I think was his most honest admission regarding the climate crisis. American energy, he said, makes ‘a lot of money.’ He isn’t willing to ‘give that up.’ He didn’t mention climate change once in his response, but he didn’t have to. To acknowledge it, climate change, would be too costly, it would cost American energy companies too much. The Reporter attempted to push the question, but the President was finished and moved to leave. Trump’s last words were: “Clean air, clean water. Thank you.”
This answer, indirect as it was, appears as a step forward towards combatting climate change. Before, Trump has called the issue, a ‘hoax, a ‘dream,’ generally regarded it as a scam or a conspiracy theory and consequently refused to discuss it. He has now admitted to what was probably, if not his stance on the issue all along then certainly the true stance of those companies which deliberately fomented climate dissent—climate change may be real but it’s bad for business. That he is talking about it now as business, though, as an inconvenient economic truth, is hopeful. Trump is a creature of business, and perhaps through the language of business, he can be convinced of the gravity of climate change.