>>Michael D Shear The New York Times
Published: 2019-08-25 10:00:22 BdST
But even as Trump bragged about what he called “a special relationship” with Macron, saying they have “been friends for a long time,” members of Trump’s administration were publicly and privately dumping on the French president and his team. They complained that the focus of the summit was more on “niche issues” than the global economic challenges facing their nations.
Senior administration officials said that the agenda would centre too much on issues designed to play well with Macron’s domestic audience — like climate change, income and gender equality, and African development — and was engineered to highlight disagreements with Trump’s administration.
They accused Macron’s aides of ignoring pleas by Trump administration officials to focus the summit, which runs through Monday, on national security and a looming economic slowdown. And they said Macron was purposely trying to fracture the G-7 by veering away from its long-standing mission of ensuring that the strains on other economies do not spread globally.
“France, this year’s host, wants the Group of 7 to stay silent on these core economic issues,” Larry Kudlow, the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal as Trump arrived in Biarritz. Kudlow accused the French of focusing on “politically correct bromides” and said the G-7 was in danger of losing its way. “Trade and the global economy have gotten short shrift.”
The orchestrated message, some of it delivered by administration officials who asked to remain anonymous in order to criticise a foreign leader, underscored the deep rift between Trump and his counterparts in an organization that during earlier times succeeded in fostering cooperation and consensus among the heads of state of the world’s leading democracies.
And it served as a reminder that Trump easily tires of the niceties of diplomacy. Last year, he arrived at the G-7 following a Twitter tirade about tariffs with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, whom he continued to berate after leaving and backing out of the joint statement with the other leaders.
Before arriving this year, Macron said he had decided to abandon efforts to craft a joint agreement at the end of the summit, describing it as an attempt to avoid the inevitable clash with Trump. He told reporters it would be “pointless” to try to reach consensus on issues like climate change with a leader who has made his contrary views quite clear.
The two men have also recently clashed over Macron’s imposition of a digital services tax on big US tech companies. Trump has threatened to retaliate with a tax on French wine, adding to the trade tensions between the countries.
At their impromptu lunch Saturday, Macron called Trump “a very special guest for us” and pledged cooperation. But for those around the US president, the face-to-face meeting was just the first of what promised to be a series of fraught interactions as he presses his case with his counterparts.
For Trump’s first one-on-one meeting Sunday morning, he has chosen to meet with Boris Johnson, the new British prime minister, who has been engaged in his own extended verbal spat with the Continent’s leaders over the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Trump has publicly expressed support for Brexit, a position that has further irritated his already tense relationships on the world stage.
The president will meet with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, later on Sunday amid reports that negotiators for the two countries have reached a deal in principle on tariffs. The men could formally sign a deal next month, a victory that is likely to please Trump, who has repeatedly praised his relationship with Abe.
His discussion with Trudeau on Sunday is likely to be far frostier, although by the time the seven world leaders had met Saturday for a working dinner at the base of a lighthouse built in the 1830s, Trump had so far resisted any temptation to criticize the Canadian prime minister.
Trump has shown less restraint when it comes to Angela Merkel, the departing chancellor of Germany, whom he will meet with Monday. In a tweet on Wednesday, in a week of complaints about Federal Reserve policy, he lamented that Germany was paying “zero interest” on debt while the United States is “paying interest.”
That followed tweets in June, when Trump alleged that crime in Germany was “way up” and insisted that “people in Germany are turning against their leadership” because of decisions to let migrants into the country.
Before returning to the United States on Monday afternoon, Trump will meet with Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, amid escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. And the president will have a face-to-face with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt.
But according to Trump’s advisers, the success or failure of the two-day gathering will be measured by how seriously Macron and the others address a weakening economy — something that threatens Trump’s own re-election campaign if it drags down the US economy next year.
“The Group of 7 is in danger of completely losing its way,” Kudlow argued in the Journal. “If Mr Trump isn’t allowed to make the case for growth at the Group of 7, no other leader will.”
And yet, to judge by Trump’s Twitter feed, Macron was not the only world leader in Biarritz to be preoccupied with topics other than global economics.
Writing on Twitter from his hotel before dinner, Trump lashed out at Democrats in the United States, saying they “only want to raise your taxes!” A few minutes later, he mentioned that he “just had lunch” with Macron, but quickly returned to domestic politics.
“Looking forward to helping New York City and Governor @andrewcuomo complete the long anticipated, and partially built, Second Avenue Subway,” he declared. A few minutes later, it was clear he was still not focused on the economic fortunes of Germany, Italy or Britain.
“North Carolina Governor Cooper Vetoed a Bill that would have required Sheriffs to cooperate with Ice,” Trump wrote. “This is a terrible decision for the great people of North Carolina. He should reverse his decision and get back to the basics of fighting crime!”
©2019 The New York Times Company