Trump: G-7 Summit Going ‘Very Well’ Despite Trade Tensions

BIARRITZ, France (Reuters) -
President Donald Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrive for a bilateral meeting during the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Sunday. (Reuters/Dylan Martinez/Pool)

President Donald Trump disputed reports Sunday that he faces a tense reception from world leaders at the Group of Seven summit in France, as they meet amid mounting anxiety of a global economic slowdown.

Trump is trying to use the summit to rally global leaders to do more to stimulate their economies, as fears rise it could soon affect the U.S. ahead of his re-election. But his counterparts, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are trying to convince him to back off his trade wars with China and other countries, which they see as contributing to the economic weakening.

“The Leaders are getting along very well,” Trump said in a Sunday morning tweet ahead of a breakfast meeting with Johnson, their first since his elevation to the prime minister post earlier this month.

The economic warning signs, along with China’s aggressive use of tariffs on U.S. goods, are raising the pressure on Trump and his re-election effort.

During a jovial breakfast meeting, Trump praised Johnson as the “right man for the job” to complete the U.K.’s departure from the European Union, adding, “he needs no advice.” Johnson, who faces what he called “tough talks” in the weeks and months ahead with the EU as they hurtle toward a no-deal exit in October, joked to Trump that “you’re on message there.”

Johnson praised Trump for America’s economic performance, but chided Trump on his hard-nosed China policy. “Just to register a faint sheep-like note of our view on the trade war. We’re in favor of trade peace.”

Trump was then set to enter the first official summit meeting, initially set to be a discussion of foreign policy and security issues. But White House aides claimed he engineered a late change to the summit schedule, adding economic issues to the agenda.

Trump planned to press leaders about what can be done to spur growth in the U.S. and abroad, as well as to open European, Japanese and Canadian markets to American manufacturers and producers. Trump has imposed or threatened to impose tariffs on all three markets in his pursuit of free, fair and reciprocal trade.

The meetings come days after President Donald Trump escalated his trade war with China, after China slapped new tariffs on $75 billion in American goods, including issuing a threat to declare a national emergency in an attempt to force U.S. businesses to cut ties with China.

Asked if he regrets the latest escalation, Trump told reporters he has “second thoughts about everything” and insisted that despite the spiraling trade dispute, “we’re getting along well right now with China.”

The meeting of the Group of Seven nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S. — in the beach resort town of Biarritz comes at one of the most unpredictable moments in Trump’s presidency, when his public comments and decision-making increasingly have seemed erratic and acerbic of late.

Only hours before his arrival in Biarritz Saturday, Trump threatened anew to place tariffs on French wine imports to the U.S. in a spat over France’s digital services tax; the European Union promised to retaliate. That was the backdrop for a late addition to his summit schedule — a two-hour lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron outside the opulent Hotel du Palais.

The summit host said the two men were discussing “a lot of crisis” around the world, including Libya, Iran and Russia, as well as trade policy and climate change. But he also echoed Trump’s calls for Europe to do more to address the global slowdown, including by cutting taxes. “When I look at Europe, especially, we need some new tools to relaunch our economy,” Macron said.

The annual G-7 summit has historically been used to highlight common ground among the world’s leading democracies. But in a bid to work around Trump’s impulsiveness, Macron has eschewed plans for a formal joint statement from this gathering.