President Trump to attend G7 Summit, in part

Donald Trump said he will 'fight' at the G7 Summit 2018 Photo / Courtesy White House

The two-day meeting will be dominated by the possibility of a trade war – prompted by the US levies of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum

WASHINGTON(TIP): After initial dithering, President Trump is heading for G7 Summit at Charlevoix, Canada on Friday, June 8. Following the session on Women’s Empowerment, Trump will travel directly to Singapore from Canada in anticipation of his upcoming meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, Tuesday, June 12.

Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs Everett Eissenstat will represent the United States for the remaining G7 sessions, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

The annual G7 (Group of Seven) summit kicks off in Charlevoix, Quebec on Friday, June 8 and the stage is set for a major showdown between the US and its allies.

The leaders of the G7, an informal bloc of some of the world’s most powerful industrialized countries, including Germany, the UK, and Japan, get together every year to discuss collaboration on issues like global security, the international economy, and climate change.

At the end of the summit, they aim to sign a joint statement detailing the policy positions and initiatives they agree on.

But there’s a decent chance that might not happen this year.

That’s because President Donald Trump has so badly rattled the other members with his recent heavy steel and aluminum tariffs and other divisive new policies that it might be impossible for the group to reach a consensus on any substantive issue.

The two-day meeting will be dominated by the possibility of a trade war – prompted by the US levies of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has predicted a big fight at the summit, triggering suggestions it has become a “G6+1” – with the US president isolated and alone.

The EU is poised to impose tariffs on US imports ranging from Harley-Davidson motorbikes and jeans to bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice, from next month.

Brussels is still finalizing the list it will submit to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which will be on top of tit-for-tat tariffs on about £2.5bn of US steel.

A French official told Bloomberg that French President Emmanuel Macron wants to make progress with President Trump on smoothing tensions over trade, the US’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and climate policy — and if that doesn’t happen, France may refuse to sign.

Then there’s the fact that Trump himself is reportedly contemplating not signing the joint statement to show that the US is perfectly happy to go its own way if the other members give it too much trouble during talks. The divide has become so stark that staffers and observers of the G7 have started to call it the “G6 plus one.”

“What this G7 is going to show is that the United States are alone against everyone, and especially alone against their allies,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters last week.

The G7 summit is usually a boring meeting of broad consensus. Not anymore.

The G7 summit, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, plus the European Union (which is not technically part of the G7 but participates), is typically a pretty straightforward affair.

The official themes for this year’s summit include “investing in growth that works for everyone,” “preparing for the jobs of the future,” and “advancing gender equality.” Against the backdrop of these deliberately anodyne themes, world leaders can hobnob and try to move the ball forward on issues like a new free trade agreement or cooperative climate policy.

But Trump has departed sharply from the G7 consensus on issues like these in the past by, for instance, pulling out of the Paris climate agreement and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And White House officials say he is planning to strike a confrontational posture at the summit. “There are disagreements. He’s sticking to his guns, and he’s going to talk, talk to them,” National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters on Wednesday. Trump is also reportedly considering implementing a fresh round of tariffs against Canada — the host of the summit.

European countries could also shun the final statement. Their biggest priority is likely going to be getting Trump to consider some kind of compromise on his recent protectionist trade policies, the most controversial one being his imposition of sweeping tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. Currently, those tariffs hit exports from every other member of the G7.

Trump is also apparently not looking forward to what could be a tense and awkward meeting. According to the Washington Post, Trump has reportedly complained to advisers about having an “uneasy rapport” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and sees British Prime Minister Theresa May as “too politically correct.”

And Trump has apparently told advisers that he doesn’t want to be “lectured” by other world leaders, especially as he tries to prepare for an upcoming high-stakes summit with North Korea next week.

If the final joint statement for the G7 is missing signatories this weekend when the summit wraps up, it won’t be the end of the world. It’s a symbolic show of unity, not a binding document with concrete policy effects. But it will be yet another sign of how far the US is drifting from many of its most trusted friends in the world.

(With input from agencies)


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