BIARRITZ, France (Reuters) – Leaders of the group of the Seven Wealthy Nations will discuss world trade issues at their annual summit on Sunday, which is likely to be a gaping gap between US President Donald Trump and his Western allies.
French President Emmanuel Macron and President of the European Council Donald Tusk pose with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France on 24th August 2019. REUTERS / Christian Hartmann
The G7 meeting is taking place against a backdrop of growing concerns about a global economic downturn, and coincides with an era of international disagreement on a series of issues that have weighed on decades of relationships.
Trump accompanied leaders from France, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada in the French seaside resort of Biarritz for three days of talks that began on Saturday with an ambitious agenda on democracy, gender equality and democracy Education and Climate Change.
The delegations had barely arrived before differences were revealed, and high-ranking US officials accused the host, French President Emmanuel Macron, of "disrupting the G7" by focusing on "niche issues" rather than major global concerns ,
France denied this and referred to the first session on Sunday, which dealt with the economy, trade and security – areas where there used to be a slight consensus, but which today cause great tensions.
Trump arrived in France just hours after the escalation of his trade war with China in a fierce battle between the two largest economies in the world that scared the financial markets.
"I am very concerned about the development, the growth of protectionism and the tariffs that we see," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday.
"Those who support the tariffs risk being blamed for the downturn in the global economy, whether or not it is true."
Trump underlined the discord and threatened his host the night before The summit said the United States would tax French wine "as they've never seen it before" if Paris did not levy a digital tax on US technology companies.
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who participates in the G7 discussions, warned that the EU would respond "in kind" if Trump responded to his threat.
"This could be the last moment to restore our political community," Tusk told reporters on Saturday, giving a bleak assessment of Western relations.
To broaden the scope of the debate, Macron has invited several African leaders to discuss the problems of their continent, while leaders from India, Australia, Chile and Spain will be attending a dinner on Sunday the focus on the topic is environment among others.
Trump ended the G7 summit in Canada last year, left the meeting prematurely, and distanced himself from the final message after he had originally approved the document.
France has circumvented this problem by eliminating the time-honored communique and realizing that it was not even worth finding a common language.
While the transatlantic divide is at its worst, there are deep divisions within the European camp, with Johnson making his G7 debut at a time when he's struggling to convince EU capitals to divorce the UK to renegotiate the block.
Johnson and Tusk, who are scheduled to speak at the summit on Sunday, have been arguing before the meeting who would be to blame if Britain leaves the EU on October 31 without a mutually acceptable Brexit agreement.
"I still hope Prime Minister Johnson does not like to go down in history as a Mr. No Deal," said Tusk, who heads the political direction of the 28-nation European Union.
Johnson later replied that it would be Tusk himself who would wear the coat if Britain could not secure a new readmission agreement.
Macron unexpectedly threatened to block an EU trade agreement with a group of South American states on Friday, as Brazil struggles with fires devastating the Amazon rainforest.
Germany and Britain were deeply concerned about the flames but did not agree with Macron on how to react and said launching the ambitious Mercosur trade agreement would not save the Amazon.
coverage by Richard Lough, Crispian Balmer, Marine Pennetier, John Chalmers, Jeff Mason, John Irish, Andreas Rinke, William James and Michel Rose; Letter from Crispian Balmer; Edited by Frances Kerry