Macron’s G7 descends into summit of spin
BIARRITZ, France — It’s the seaside summit of seven truths.
Gathered for their annual pow-wow in the French coastal city of Biarritz this weekend, leaders of the G7 club of rich democracies agreed that Russia should not be invited back into the fold. Or maybe they didn’t.
The leaders also decided that their host, French President Emmanuel Macron, would issue a joint statement to Iran on their behalf and pursue discussions to de-escalate tensions. Or actually, they didn’t. U.S. President Donald Trump told perplexed reporters that each G7 country would pursue its own dialogue with Tehran.
And as the political titans of the industrialized world chit-chatted about the fragile global economy, amid the breeze blowing in off the Bay of Biscay, apparently the prospects for a deal on Brexit somehow magically improved. Or perhaps that was just a bit of wishful thinking — if not outright distortion — by new U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. EU officials said after a meeting between Johnson and European Council President Donald Tusk that absolutely nothing had changed.
Welcome to big-league global diplomacy in 2019 — where everything is at stake and yet nothing is certain and no one can be trusted, at least not without extensive corroboration. And that’s largely down to Trump and Macron.
Macron, the ambitious first-term president who not so long ago was a staffer helping prepare the G7 summit and draft the final communiqué, thought he had hit upon a brilliant strategy to prevent Trump from upending the leaders’ written conclusions — by simply declaring in advance that there wouldn’t be any this year.
Without a communiqué, there would be no way for Trump to sign on to a statement and then torpedo it minutes later, as he did after last year’s G7 leaders’ summit in Quebec, Canada. But Macron quickly discovered that no communiqué also means no carefully negotiated written record of what leaders have actually agreed, no solid commitment to any particular course of action. Nothing to prove that, in fact, the leaders of the free world are still able to reach consensus on how to manage tough problems.
Trump gives a stunning display of incoherence at the G-7
Editorial (Washington Post) August 26 at 5:45 PM
ON FRIDAY, President Trump called President Xi Jinping of China an “enemy,” said “we don’t need China” and told U.S. companies they were “hereby ordered” to end their operations there. Over the next 72 hours, he cited a 1977 emergency powers law to back up his threat to end U.S. economic relations with Beijing; announced he did not intend to invoke the law; and, on Monday, declared Mr. Xi to be “a great leader” and “a brilliant man” with whom his administration would probably soon strike a trade deal. It was, all in all, a stunning display of incoherence — even by Mr. Trump’s standards — that encapsulated his performance at the Group of Seven summit.
Mr. Trump’s conflicting statements on China were far from the only puzzlements of his stay in Biarritz, France. He repeatedly touted what he said was a trade deal with Japan, only to be contradicted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Japanese foreign ministry, which said the negotiations were at a preliminary stage. He said there was “tremendous unity” in his talks with the other six leaders, though officials said the U.S. delegation blocked consensus on trade and other issues. Mr. Trump skipped a meeting on climate change, and his pitch to restore Russia to the group was flatly rejected by Germany and Britain, among others.
French President Emmanuel Macron made a valiant effort to use the summit to jump-start negotiations between the United States and Iran, even inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Biarritz. Mr. Trump responded with more confusion: After allowing that Mr. Macron’s suggestion of a summit between him and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani within weeks was possible, he went on to cite conditions for a deal different — and less stringent — from those previously outlined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Trump lambasted President Barack Obama for striking a deal that granted Iran economic concessions, then suggested that he would support new loans for Tehran if talks got underway.
Mr. Rouhani suggested in a speech Monday that he was open to negotiations, so perhaps something will come from Mr. Macron’s initiative. But there was no way to judge from Mr. Trump’s remarks whether he was seriously contemplating a change of tack on Iran — just as it was anyone’s guess whether he had second thoughts about the trade war he started with China, as he suggested Sunday, or merely wished he had raised tariffs even higher, as his staff later said.
The one subject on which Mr. Trump’s intentions appeared unambiguous was his plan to steer the next G-7 summit, which the United States is due to host, to his own Doral golf resort near Miami — thereby injecting a huge stimulus into what has been a struggling business. When asked whether he was trying to use the presidency to enrich himself, Mr. Trump responded with the ludicrous claim that the presidency had cost him $3 billion to $5 billion. His scheme cries out for congressional intervention; if the emoluments clause of the Constitution means anything, it must forbid such blatant self-dealing.
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