Trump vs the rest of the world
It was Trump vs. the rest one more time at the G7 meeting in Quebec last Friday and Saturday as the President tweeted from his plane to Singapore his withdrawal from the laboriously crafted Charlevoix G7 Summit Communiqué adopted 90 minutes earlier.
Lack of consensus on key issues such as energy and climate change at last year’s G7 and G20 meetings in Taormina and Hamburg had been accommodated by language in the final documents setting out US differences or by the issue of a G19 supported document on energy and climate. The former was also done in Quebec but then President Trump could not stomach remarks by the Summit host, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his closing press conference.
In a series of airborne tweets after leaving the summit half way through day 2, President Trump slammed "false statements at [Mr Trudeau's] news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies. I have instructed our US reps not to endorse the communiqué as we look at tariffs on automobiles flooding the US market!" He also accused Mr Trudeau of being “very dishonest and weak”. Trudeau stated that “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around”.
German Chancellor Merkel, France’s President Macron, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk all condemned Trump’s conduct while affirming their determination to implement the Summit Communiqué’s decisions.
Briefing the House of Commons on Monday evening, UK Prime Minister Theresa May described the Summit as “difficult, with, at times, some very candid discussions. But the conclusion I draw is that it is only through contin- ued dialogue that we can find ways to work together to resolve the challenges we face”.
In fact G7 communiqués are not legally binding but are nevertheless firm commitments by the world’s leading industrialised countries for action in the coming year.
The 28-paragraph Communiqué addresses key global issues under five headings – Investing in Growth for Everyone, Preparing for Jobs for the Future, Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Building a more Peaceful and Secure World, Working Together on Climate Change and Oceans and Clean Energy.
The text is supported by separate detailed texts on equal economic growth, innovative financing for development, artificial intelligence, girls’ education in developing countries, sexual and gender-based violence, defence of democracy from foreign threats and a blueprint for healthy oceans, seas and resilient coastal communities.
Without Japan and the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union also endorsed the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter.
On climate change, paragraph 24 states that "Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union reaffirm their strong commitment to implement the Paris Agreement" – the 2015 UN pact in force since November 2016 from which President Trump announced US withdrawal last June, though this will only become effective in November 2020. A contrasting US view in par. 26 reads: "The United States will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources. The United States reiterates its commitment to advancing sustainable economic growth and underscores the importance of continued action to reduce air and water pollution."
Much of the concern over the G7 fallout focuses on world trade and what the Trump withdrawal and comments mean for the future of the multilateral system he has already defied by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from major trading partners including the EU, which will react with tariffs on a range of US goods as from 1 July. The communiqué states “we underline the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system and continue to fight protectionism. We commit to modernise the WTO (World Trade Organisation) to make it fairer as soon as possible. We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies”.
Among many commentators on what this latest spat means for international relations, Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said that “the blow Trump dealt at the G7 fundamentally challenges the efficacy of other forums that have served as global guideposts for years. It is a realization that this is a very different president, different White House and administration and the usual norms of negotiation and diplomacy really don't apply." The full text of the Summit communiqué can be found at https://g7.gc.ca/en/officialdocuments/charlevoix-g7-summit-communique/