G7 summit set to expose rifts on traditional alliances
World leaders gathered in the French coastal resort of Biarritz on Saturday ahead of a G7 summit that is set to expose deep divisions between traditional western allies on trade, the environment and foreign policy.
US president Donald Trump was due to fly in for the meeting that has already been rocked by threats from France and other EU countries to refuse to ratify a big trade deal with South American states because of Brazil’s failure to tackle fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.
French president Emmanuel Macron’s trade warning puts him at odds with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who is also expected at the three-day summit, along with the leaders of Japan, Canada, Italy and the UK.
Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, is due to hold further talks on the UK’s scheduled October 31 exit from the EU, while potential clashes also loom between Mr Trump and his European counterparts over the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.
“We are concerned,” said one senior EU official of the potential for transatlantic conflict on the ocean’s shores. “The world is changing and if we want to change and influence the world in the way we would like it to evolve, we need to work together.”
Rifts within the EU have dominated the run-up to the summit, after France, Finland and Ireland called into question the bloc’s recently brokered — and hard-won — trade deal with the Mercosur group of South American countries. Berlin pushed back late on Friday against Mr Macron’s threat, saying that not to ratify the Mercosur trade deal “would not lead to less rainforest in Brazil being cleared” and would “not be the appropriate response to what is currently happening in Brazil”.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro accused his French counterpart of having a colonial mindset and seeking “personal gain”.
G7 diplomats are seeking to avoid a repeat of the open rift after last year’s summit in Canada, when Mr Trump attacked Justin Trudeau, the host country’s prime minister, and repudiated the meeting’s communique. In an effort to reduce the potential for conflict this time, Mr Macron wants to drop the communique altogether.
Mr Trump is expected to push further for Europe to reduce its reliance on Russian energy — a subject on which he has clashed with Ms Merkel repeatedly because of Germany’s pursuit of the Nord Stream 2 project to pipe gas from Russia.
Mr Trump is also expected to press for the removal of European trade barriers in agriculture and to criticise a proposed digital services tax favoured by France and other EU countries. On Friday he threatened to retaliate by taxing French wine.
“This is a barrier to achieving progress to a global regime in digital services and it’s highly counter productive at this time,” one senior US official said of the digital tax.
The summit is also due to attended by other world leaders including Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister.