Ahead of the G7 in Biarritz, France, reports suggested Donald Trump didn’t really want to go.
“In conversations with aides over the past weeks, Trump has questioned why he must attend”, CNN said Friday, citing people familiar with the conversations. “After the past two G7 summits ended acrimoniously, Trump complained about attending a third, saying he didn’t view the gathering as a particularly productive use of his time”, the network added.
You hardly need to be a CNN fan to know that’s likely true. Trump is notoriously skeptical of multilateral summits, especially those involving America’s traditional allies.
(Trump has lunch with Emmanuel Macron on Saturday / Jennifer Jacobs)
With things having gone decidedly awry on the home front over the past couple of days (the stock market fell for a fourth consecutive week amid trade tensions and concerns are mounting about a possible US recession), the president was almost assuredly irritated about the prospect of flying to France to chat with leaders who, for the most part, do not share his world view. The European powers aren’t enamored with Trump’s stance on Iran, nor are they particularly excited about his adversarial approach to trade, which has weighed heavily on the European economy.
Fast forward to Saturday and, sure enough, US officials have accused the French of attempting to embarrass Trump.
Specifically, the US says Emmanuel Macron set an agenda designed around “niche” issues, in a bid to bolster his image domestically. And you can trust the US side on that, because if there’s anything the Trump administration knows about, it’s magnifying whatever issues the president thinks will bolster his image among the base.
So, what exactly are these “niche” issues the US says Macron is unjustifiably emphasizing?
Well, the fate of humanity on the planet Earth, for one. “Macron has built the agenda around a series of issues, such as climate change and inequality”, Bloomberg writes, adding that if you ask the Trump administration, that “strays from the G-7’s founding nature as an economic bloc”.
Maybe, but it also “strays” from areas where Trump’s track record is horrendous, which perhaps goes a long towards explaining why the administration would rather nobody talks about such things.
According to sources who spoke to Bloomberg, the US says France brushed aside Trump’s “input” on the climate and inequality, and that “the original summit schedule said little or nothing about trade and the global economy”.
Paris will be forgiven if they did summarily ignore Trump’s opinion on climate change. After all, he pulled the US out of a global accord named after the city. He’s also gutted the EPA and is prone to trafficking in anti-science agitprop.
As far as inequality goes, let’s just say the president’s domestic track record is dubious. His tax cuts exacerbated the wealth divide at the expense of the people he ostensibly campaigned to help (i.e., the working class), and as far as “other” kinds of inequality goes, suffice to say Trump isn’t known as a unifier.
As to whether France is actually attempting to avoid talking about the economy and trade, Trump should thank them if that’s the case. The US is about to import an economic downturn for the first time in history and the proximate cause of the global factory malaise is US trade policy. Considering Trump has shown no willingness to back down on the trade war, and continues to insist that the media is deliberately amplifying recession worries, maybe some respite from those issues is just what he needs. (Also, IHS Markit’s PMIs for France are actually more favorable than those for the US after this week’s numbers.)
Of course, Trump officials are probably exaggerating the whole thing. In fact, as Bloomberg goes on to note, “Macron’s office [said] the very first session is on trade, the economy and security and has been planned that way for weeks”.