September 19, 2019
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Trump adopts conciliatory tone at G7 after escalating trade war with China

By Rafael Cañas

Biarritz, France, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- US President Donald Trump adopted a conciliatory tone upon his arrival at the G7 summit after escalating the trade war with China by several degrees, a dispute that is one of the chief concerns of the economic powers now meeting in Biarritz.

Almost as soon as he arrived, Trump had lunch with the host of the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom he has had - and still has - major differences, though both made the effort to meet in a friendly, measured way.

"We actually have a lot in common, Emmanuel and I," said the US president, adding that "we've been friends for a long time" and that "we have a great relationship, I think I can say a special relationship."

Even so, he admitted that "every once in a while we go at it just a little bit, not very much, but we get along very well," he said in the brief statements they made to the press as the two sat down to lunch.

In a tweet after the meeting, Trump continued his positive tone about Macron and noted that "many good things are happening for both of our countries."

But Trump did not repeat, at least for now, his threat to slap tariffs on imports of French wine in retaliation for the French tax on big tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, an issue that has dragged along for several months and which he brought up again on Friday, just before his trip to France.

He said that "those are great American companies and frankly I don't want France going out and taxing our companies." If Paris doesn't drop that idea, "we'll be taxing their wine like they've never seen before," he threatened.

Sources at the Elysee Palace described Macron's meeting with Trump as "excellent" and "productive" in a way that has cleared up many points of dispute, since during the two hours - an unusually long time for such a meeting - they discussed Iran, Ukraine, trade tensions, the French digital service tax, climate change and the Amazon.

On the last subject and before taking off for the G7, Trump expressed his differences with Macron about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the Amazon wildfires, a matter that will also be dealt with at the Biarritz meeting.

The French president threatened Friday not to ratify the EU-Mercosur trade treaty under its current conditions on grounds that Bolsonaro lied several months ago when he made a commitment to protect biodiversity, a pledge he has failed to honor.

But Trump, who spoke on the phone with the Brazilian head of state - one of his admirers - said on Twitter: "Just spoke with President @JairBolsonaro of Brazil. Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before."

Perhaps the Trump policy that will dominate much of the summit discussions over the next two days will be the escalating US trade war with China, which Beijing and Washington again intensified this Friday.

First, China announced tariffs worth $75 billion in reprisal for previous measures by the US.

Trump responded by boosting tariffs on two groups of Chinese imports announced previously, and which should take effect in October. He also ordered all US companies doing business in China (the world's largest market in an increasing number of economic sectors) to get out of that country.

Though the president apparently lacks the legal authority to give such an order (he says he does, according to the 1977 National Emergency Act), it constitutes at any rate a strong escalation of tone, even more than when he said - also on Friday - that Chinese President Xi Jinping, is one of the United States' worst enemies.

This aggravation of the Washington-Beijing trade war has raised tensions at the start of a summit that has as one of its principal subjects the downturn of the global economy due largely to the conflicts surrounding international trade.

With Germany and the United Kingdom threatened by recession and the slowdown of growth in much of the world, the stepping up of the trade war that Trump has launched against China is causing great concern at the Biarritz summit.

Macron, in his meeting with Trump, did not avoid mentioning that the summit will discuss how to lower tensions and fix the trade situation, as well as finding new ways to relaunch the global economy. EFE-EPA rcf/cd

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G7 to tackle Amazon fires, Brexit deadlock, escalating trade tensions

Biarritz, France, Aug 24 (EFE).- As leaders arrive to the quaint seaside town of Biarritz for the annual G7 summit, high on the agenda is the need to rally the international community to tackle wildfires in the Amazon, resolutions to the ensuing Brexit deadlock and de-escalation of trade tensions.

The G7, which includes France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the United States, Canada and Japan is set to launch its annual meeting Sunday, as leaders are gathering in the southeastern French town in time for a dinner hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, told reporters he was willing to listen to any suggestions UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had in a bid to unlock Brexit negotiations ahead of the UK's departure from the bloc penned for 31 October.

"He will be the third conservative UK prime minister with whom I will discuss Brexit," Tusk said.

"The one thing I will not cooperate on is no deal.

"I still hope Prime Minister Johnson will not want to go down in history as 'Mr. No Deal'.

"We are willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states, including Ireland," Tusk, who will step down as president of the EC to pave the way for Belgian PM Charles Michel, added.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be attending his first G7 summit and is expected to meet Tusk and US President Donald Trump.

Upon arriving in Biarritz, Johnson told reporters that to prevent the UK from crashing out of the EU it would be essential to abolish the controversial Irish Backstop, a mechanism designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit.

"I have made it absolutely clear I don't want a no deal Brexit," Johnson said.

"But I say to our friends in the EU, if they don't want a no-deal Brexit then we have got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty.

"If Donald Tusk doesn't want to go down as 'Mr No Deal Brexit' then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him too," the British PM added.

Johnson has said that his government does not want to reimpose border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and that he believes there is a technical solution to the UK's exit.

In a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday she gave the UK 30 days to find a workable solution to the crisis.

In his address, Tusk also took the opportunity to rule out the option of re-including Russia in the group.

"Under no condition can we agree with Donald Trump's logic that Russia should be allowed back into G7 because Crimea's annexation was 'partially justified' and should be accepted," Tusk said.

The former Polish PM added that he would be hoping to convince the group to invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to future meetings as a guest.

In a televised address aired hours before the official launch of the summit Macron insisted that the Amazon wildfires were high on the agenda days after claiming that "Our house is burning".

"Climate and biodiversity are at the heart of this G7.

"The ocean and the forest that burns in the Amazon call us.

"We have to answer to them in a concrete way.

"On these subjects, the time is no longer for words, but for deeds."

Macron also warned of global trade tensions saying he hoped the summit would serve as a platform to encourage de-escalation of animosity.

The French president said he would be attempting "to convince all our partners that trade tensions are bad for everyone"

"We must succeed in reaching a de-escalation, stabilize things and avoid this trade war which is already taking place everywhere," he added.

This comes on the back of fresh retaliatory measures imposed by the US on Friday to hike up tariffs on Chinese imports.

Trump also threatened to impose tariffs on French wines in response to the recently approved "Gafa" tax which targets the activities of tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. EFE


G7: A club of economic powerhouses or an obsolete summit?

Biarritz, France, Aug 24 (efe-epa) .- The G7, which from Saturday until Monday marks its annual summit at the seaside town of Biarritz, will see some of the world's top economic powers come together amid widespread criticism that the transnational organization is obsolete and does not reflect the new world order.

The G7 includes France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, United States, Canada and Japan.

The seven states represent about 40% of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 10% of the planet's population.

Three of its member states (France, the UK and US) are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

When the group emerged in 1975, it accounted for 70% of the world's GDP, so at that moment it did reflect the world's main economic powers.

Why was it created?

The initiative was conceived by then French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing to design a common position to tackle the first major oil crisis and to assess the impact of the abolition in 1971 of the so-called "gold standard.

Canada joined the group in 1976 followed by Russia in 1997 (which saw the formation of the G8), although the latter was expelled in 2014 following the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

The European Union participates in all discussions and is represented by the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission.

How often do they meet?

The heads of state and government of the member countries meet once a year in the nation that holds the presidency that year.

The annual meeting is preceded in the previous months by negotiation and work sessions with ministers and representatives of the areas covered.

What differentiates the G7 from other international organizations?

The G7 is an informal forum for high-level debate.

It has no legal framework or permanent secretariat.

Nations take turns to assume the presidency, during which they are each responsible for organizing the annual summit and previous ministerial meetings.

What are the topics of discussion?

Although its initial objective was to discuss global economic governance, agendas have broadened to include current international issues, such as the climate crisis, the Iranian nuclear pact, the fight against terrorism or the fight against inequalities, this year's central theme in France.

What are the results?

The G7 is not just an informal framework for discussions.

It offers world leaders the possibility of engaging in a dialogue and past meetings have been the breeding ground of the creation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

How many summits has France organized?

Biarritz's is the seventh to be held on French territory. Previous meetings include Rambouillet in 1975, Versailles in 1982, Paris in 1989, Lyon in 1996, Evian in 2003 and Deauville in 2011. EFE-EPA


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