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Beneath the bonhomie, rifts emerge at G7 summit

Beneath the bonhomie, rifts emerge at G7 summit
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and President Donald Trump, right, in Biarritz, France, Sunday. (AP)
Paris, Aug 25 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 8/25/2019 12:06:42 PM IST

President Donald Trump insists he’s getting along well with leaders at the G7 summit in France, but rifts emerged with his Western allies on issues ranging from his trade war with China to Iran, North Korea and Russia.

According to AP, the G7 gathering is taking place against a backdrop of worries about a global economic downturn and coincides with an era of international disunity across an array of matters.

“Before I arrived in France, the Fake and Disgusting News was saying that relations with the 6 others countries in the G-7 are very tense, and that the two days of meetings will be a disaster,” Trump wrote on Twitter shortly before meeting new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Well, we are having very good meetings, the Leaders are getting along very well, and our Country, economically, is doing great - the talk of the world!”

Tensions were quickly on show, however, as the first full day of talks between the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States got underway in the Basque coast resort of Biarritz in southwest France.

Before leaving Washington Trump stepped up his tariff war with Beijing in a battle between the world’s two largest economies that has spooked financial markets, and called on US companies to move out of China.

Britain’s Johnson voiced concern on Saturday about creeping protectionism and said those who support tariffs “are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy”.

Sitting across from Trump on Sunday, he said: “We’re in favour of trade peace on the whole, and dialling it down if we can.”

Asked if he was being pressed by allies to relent in his stand-off with China, Trump said: “I think they respect the trade war.”

Underlining the multilateral discord even before the summit got underway, Trump threatened the meeting’s host, saying Washington would tax French wine “like they’ve never seen before” unless Paris dropped a digital tax on US technology companies.

Leaping into the fray, European Council President Donald Tusk, who takes part in the G7 discussions, warned the EU would respond “in kind” if Trump acted on his threat.

“This may be the last moment to restore our political community,” Tusk told reporters on Saturday, giving a bleak assessment of Western relations.

Senior US officials accused Macron of looking “to fracture the G7” by focusing on “niche issues” rather than major global concerns.

France denied this, pointing to Sunday’s initial session covering the economy, trade and security.

In Biarritz, Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran, saying that while he was happy for Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives.

European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the US since Trump pulled his country out of Iran’s internationally brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.

France said G7 leaders had agreed that Macron should hold talks and pass on messages to Iran. However, Trump distanced himself from the proposal, saying he had not even discussed it.

Trump also appeared at odds with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the seriousness of North Korea’s series of short-range missile launches.

Trump, who prizes his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, told reporters the launches did not violate an agreement and were in line with what others were doing. Abe, standing beside him, said they breached UN resolutions.

Trump’s suggestion that Russia rejoins the grouping after it was ousted over its invasion of Crimea has not found favour among Western allies.

But there are also deep divisions within the European camp, with Johnson making his G7 debut at a time when he is struggling to persuade EU capitals to renegotiate Britain’s exit from the bloc.

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