September 19, 2019
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7 key topics at G7 Biarritz summit

By Enrique Rubio

Biarritz, France, Aug 23 (efe-epa).- The G7 summit was until not so long ago a meeting of leaders in harmony, who took advantage of the meeting to agree on the lines of action.

On Friday, in view of the many differences within the group, host country France has rejected even sending out a joint final statement.

The summit of the Group of Seven more developed countries will open on Saturday in Biarritz, southwestern France.

It aims to help traditional democratic powers to address their differences and try to bring vision to the most urgent aspects.

1. BREXIT

Boris Johnson will debut at the summit as the United Kingdom’s prime minister, with the threat of a no-deal Brexit, the UK's exit from the European Union, just around the corner on 31 October.

France and Germany have made it clear that they will not accept changes in the agreement reached, especially if that means giving up the safeguard over Ireland.

But Johnson will have a powerful ally, United States president Donald Trump who is waiting for his turn to strengthen the economic relationship with the UK when it leaves the EU.

2. IRAN

The unilateral withdrawal of the US from the nuclear agreement reached with Iran in 2015 has raised tension with its Western partners, who fight for Tehran to respect its commitments despite the return of US sanctions.

The discrepancies were so evident that the French president Emmanuel Macron received Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Yavad Zarif on Friday in Paris, the same against whom Washington announced sanctions that disabled him as an interlocutor on 31 July.

3. RUSSIA

The G8 became the G7 in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, thereby breaking one of the channels of dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now the group is divided on the relevance of reintegrating Russia into the forum.

Trump leads the supporters of its return, with Japan and France open to considering it, while the EU is emphatic in its refusal.

4. TRADE WAR

Trade tensions concern a large part of industrialized countries, such as Germany and Japan, which will fight in Biarritz for the US to mitigate its protectionist practices in an environment of progressive decline.

The bleak macroeconomic outlook in the US, which is on the point of a recession, will be used by the other democracies to pressure Trump on the need to loosen the pressure, especially with China.

5. AMAZON FIRE

The most pressing news always finds a way of gaining a foothold in the G7.

In this case, the images of the Amazon rainforest on fire will bring the climate crisis debate to life.

Host president Macron posted on Twitter: "Our house burns. Literally. The Amazon, the lungs of our planet that produces 20% of our oxygen, is burning. It's an international crisis. Members of the G7, see you in two days to talk about this urgency."

6. TECHNOLOGY

One of the great objectives that France has set for the summit is to agree on a global rate for large digital companies for their income outside their countries of origin.

Paris has already approved the launch of a tax on giants such as Google or Facebook unilaterally, which sparked Trump's anger and he has threatened to impose reprisals on French wine.

7. EQUALITY

The priority chartered by France for the G7 of Biarritz is the "fight against inequalities" and the fight for gender equality stands out prominently.

An advisory council which included Nobel Peace Prize winners Iraqi Nadia Murad and Congolese Denis Mukwege, will present a report that identifies good legislative practices that must be respected by countries that want to adhere to the so-called Partnership of Biarritz. EFE-EPA

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Brexit, US trade deal on Abe's agenda ahead of G7 summit

By Antonio Hermosín Gandul.

Tokyo, Aug 23 (efe-epa).- The Japanese prime minister has a clear agenda for the forthcoming G7 summit: to establish mitigation plans for Brexit and to push through a bilateral trade agreement with the United States.

Japan presided over the G20 summit in Osaka in June, which was marked by divisions between members and eclipsed by bilateral issues.

Shinzo Abe will attend the meeting of the leaders of the world's most developed countries between Aug. 24-26 in the French city of Biarritz and is expected to back the major proposals host state France will put on the table.

High on the agenda is a discussion on a potential no-deal Brexit, which would see the UK crash out of the European Union on Oct. 31.

The consequences could be significant for the world's third-biggest economy due to the widespread presence of Japanese companies in the United Kingdom.

Japanese media has reported that Abe will hold bilateral meetings with the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.

He is expected to back Macron in defending free trade which could be sealed through a joint declaration similar to the one passed in Osaka if the G7 leaders manage to resolve their differences.

This stands in contrast to the recent trade war between Japan and South Korea due to a historic dispute, a subject which could be raised with Abe by other G7 leaders.

Abe is also set to use the summit to meet US President Donald Trump in an attempt to push forward a bilateral trade deal between the two countries, to pen the agreement by September.

The major obstacles in the deal continue to be Washington's demand that Japan liberalizes its agricultural sector, and the removal or reduction of US tariffs on Japanese vehicles, Tokyo's main plea.

The trade representatives of both countries — Robert Lighthizer and Toshimitsu Motegi — are currently holding a fresh round of negotiations in Washington which started on Aug. 21, and could help progress process which has stalled for months.

Japan, which has economic interests in the Persian Gulf, has been under pressure from the US to participate in the coalition to protect oil tankers that pass through the Strait of Hormuz in the face of possible aggression from Iran.

Tokyo has seemed unwilling to put its ties with Tehran in danger.

Abe has tried to serve as a mediator in the US-Iran crisis, although its efforts, which included the first Iran visit by a Japanese leader since the Islamic Revolution, have been fruitless.

In such a scenario, Abe could take a cautious approach about the Iran crisis in Biarritz and be open to exploring ways to ensure the security of maritime transport in the region without supporting Washington's sanctions on Tehran and other forms of direct pressure.

At the G20 summit in Osaka, members agreed to work towards the creation of an international framework that would register cryptocurrency operators and to improve transnational coordination to avoid legal loopholes that enable money laundering with these digital assets or their use for other criminal purposes.

Japan, a pioneer country in the regulation of currencies such as Bitcoin and that has also witnessed some of the largest "hacks" of virtual exchange houses, is pushing for these initiatives to continue under the French presidency of the G7.

At the Osaka summit, an agreement in principle was also reached over the creation of the so-called "digital tax" which would target tech giants, a move that was reinforced with the G7's Finance Minister's Meeting in Chantilly, France, and that Abe will also back in Biarritz. EFE-EPA

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Tokyo asks Seoul to reconsider termination of military intel-sharing pact

Tokyo, Aug 23 (efe-epa).- Japan on Friday lamented the decision by South Korea to pull out of a bilateral military information-sharing agreement and asked it to reconsider its decision.

The decision is "regrettable" in the current security context in the region with repeated missile launches by North Korea — six in less than a month, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters.

Iwaya said that both countries had exchanged useful information on the incidents involving North Korea on account of the agreement and added that Japan will do everything possible to ensure its safety and security by building on its alliance with the United States.

The Japanese defense minister also highlighted the importance of maintaining cooperation between Tokyo, Seoul and Washington and urged South Korea to reconsider the decision and respond wisely.

Speaking to reporters before departing for the French city of Biarritz to take part in the G7 summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accused South Korea of continuing to undermine relations of mutual trust.

However, Abe added that the termination of the bilateral pact should not have a negative impact on trilateral cooperation with the US while urging South Korea to fulfill its promises.

On Thursday, Seoul announced its decision not to renew the bilateral military information exchange agreement it signed with Tokyo in 2016 and which expires on Aug. 24.

The South Korean government attributed the decision to the "grave change" in the conditions of cooperation between the two countries, which have been locked in a trade and diplomatic crisis after Japan applied restrictions to its exports to South Korea and removed it from its list of countries that benefit from trade privileges.

Seoul, which also adopted similar measures in retaliation, believes that in this context, maintaining the intelligence agreement no longer coincides with its national interests.

The origin of the confrontation, which has caused bilateral relations to deteriorate to their lowest point in recent decades, was a ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court at the end of 2018, that Japanese companies would be forced to pay compensation to Korean citizens or their heirs who were enslaved during the Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula. EFE-EPA

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