Beneath show of bonhomie, rifts emerge between Trump and Western allies at G7 summit
* Trump decries fake news portrayal of tensions at G7 summit
* Johnson "the right man" for Brexit, Trump says after
* Trump at odds with others on Iran, North Korea and Russia
* Europe struggling to overcome own frictions
* African, Asian leaders to join the discussions
By Jeff Mason and William James
BIARRITZ, France, Aug 25 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald
Trump insisted on Sunday that he was getting along well with
leaders at a 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.
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 U.S.
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
standoff with China, Trump said: "I think they respect the trade
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 U.S. technology
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.
Looking to broaden the scope of the debate, French President
Emmanuel Macron has invited several African leaders to discuss
problems facing their continent, while leaders from India,
Australia, Chile and Spain are due to attend a dinner on Sunday
where the focus will be on the environment and other issues.
However, senior U.S. officials accused Macron of looking "to
fracture the G7" by focusing on "niche issues" rather than major
France denied this, pointing to Sunday's initial session
covering the economy, trade and security - areas that used to
draw easy consensus but are now sources of great friction.
Trump up-ended last year's G7 meeting in Canada, walking out
early and disassociating himself from the final communique.
DIFFERENCES OVER IRAN, NORTH KOREA, RUSSIA
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 United States 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, who has
pushed a maximum pressure policy on Iran, 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 U.N. resolutions.
The missile launches have complicated attempts to restart
talks between U.S. and North Korean negotiators over the future
of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
There was also disagreement in Biarritz over Trump’s calls
for Russia to be readmitted to the group of advanced economies.
Russia was excluded from what used to be the G8 in 2014
after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea and then backed an anti-Kiev
rebellion in the industrial region of Donbas in eastern Ukraine.
Johnson said G7 leaders had a "lively" discussion about
Russia and Trump, asked if his case for Moscow to be brought
back into the fold had made headway, said it was a "work in
At the start of the day, Trump said Britain would have a
major trade deal with Washington after it leaves the European
Union. Asked what his advice on Brexit was for Johnson, he
replied: "He needs no advice, he is the right man for the job".
While the transatlantic rift is the most stark, 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, which
Johnson has said will happen on Oct. 31 come what may.
Macron added to the internal EU strains by unexpectedly
threatening on Friday to block an EU trade deal with a group of
South American states over Brazil's handling of fires that are
ravaging the Amazon rainforest.
Germany and Britain both voiced deep concern about the
fires, but said shooting down the ambitious Mercosur trade
accord would not help save the Amazon.
(Reporting by Richard Lough, Crispian Balmer, Marine Pennetier,
John Chalmers, Jeff Mason, John Irish, Andreas Rinke, William
James and Michel Rose
Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
First Published: 2019-08-25 01:16:45
Updated 2019-08-25 13:35:57
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