How Macron Pulled the Strings at the G-7 Summit
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
In Biarritz this weekend, Macron pulled off some impressive stunts — and mostly got what he wanted.
WHAT TO KNOW
What happened? When the weekend G-7 summit began, several crises were clearly on the agenda, including the current fires in the Amazon and the potential for a U.K.-U.S. trade deal that could help U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson mitigate the catastrophic economic damage his threatened no-deal Brexit is expected to cause. But that didn’t stop U.S. President Donald Trump and particularly French President Emmanuel Macron from throwing new wrenches into the mix.
Why does it matter? The G-7’s purpose is largely for world leaders to convene and come to an agreement on major topics like international trade. But this session largely showed how little consensus remains on any topic, even among this relatively rarified group. Many observers are pinpointing a cantankerous dinner Saturday night as the turning point, and specifically Trump’s loud assertion that Russia should be readmitted to the G-7 despite being ejected in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea. And then there was Macron’s surprise: a six-hour visit from an Iranian diplomat for a sit-down with Macron, seen as part of the French president’s bid to save the Iranian nuclear deal. Some American officials condemned the move, but Trump was quiet about it, perhaps because, according to French authorities, he’d been told about it in advance.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
No record. While past G-7s have seen leaders sign onto a written communiqué, Macron announced there would be no such statement this time, because “it’s pointless” and “no one reads the communiqués, let’s be honest.” It also allowed him to avoid the embarrassment of last year’s G7, where Trump signed a statement and then immediately disavowed its contents.
Firefighting. One of Macron’s chief issues at the summit was the fires in the Amazon rainforest, a key environmental issue … and one that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has largely dismissed or blamed on environmental groups. International pressure has seen him authorize the deployment of troops to help fight the fires, and today the G-7 leaders (minus Trump, who didn’t attend the session) pledged $22 million in emergency funding to combat the crisis, as well as a long-term initiative whose details have yet to be sketched out. That sum is considered paltry considering the scale of the problem: It’s comparable to what President Trump spent on travel during his first 80 days in office.
War of words. The U.S. focus on trade wars was another concern voiced at the conference, with Macron specifically calling out the tactic as something he hopes can be abandoned before the world slides into another recession. Some saw hope for the French president’s platform yesterday when Trump said he had second thoughts about raising tariffs on Chinese goods — but the White House later fired back that he’d only meant he regretted not raising them even further. Meanwhile, French and U.S. officials say they’ve reached a draft compromise over a French digital tax that had Trump threatening to levy wine tariffs just days ago.
WHAT TO READ
Political Craftsman Macron Scores Victory at the G-7, by Barbara Wesel in Deutsche Welle
“The French president invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif as a surprise guest and launched a diplomatic initiative on the sidelines of the summit — and he did that right under Donald Trump’s nose.”
Trump’s Demands for Russia’s Readmission Cause Row in Biarritz, by Julian Borger in The Guardian
“Trump argued strenuously that Vladimir Putin should be invited back, five years after Russia was ejected from the then G8 for its annexation of Crimea.”
WHAT TO WATCH
Brazilian Troops Deployed to Battle Amazon Fire
“In places, there’s hardly anything left.”
Watch on Sky News on YouTube:
Trump Lunches With Macron Amid Tension on Tariffs
“We’ll be taxing their wine like they’ve never seen before.”
Watch on CNN on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Trading barbs. While Macron has on multiple occasions attempted to work with Trump despite their differences, he seems less patient with Bolsonaro. He’s recently said he may have to block the hard-fought Mercosur trade deal between the EU and a South American bloc due to Bolsonaro reneging on climate commitments, and on Monday he bluntly said he hopes Brazilians “will very soon have a president who is up to the task.”