U.S. President Donald Trump has arrived in Biarritz, France, to attend the Group of 7 summit, a meeting of the world’s most advanced democracies.
Immediately after his arrival on Saturday, Trump had lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron. The two leaders reiterated their desire to work together as they discuss a range of issues including climate change, Syria, North Korea, Ukraine and Iran this weekend.
Macron called Trump his “special guest.” Dismissing reports of a rift with his host, Trump said that he and Macron “actually have a lot in common” and “have been friends a long time.”
“So far, so good,” Trump said, “The weather is fantastic. Everybody’s getting along. I think we will accomplish a lot this weekend.”
As he left the White House on Friday night, however, Trump threatened to to impose tariffs on French wine if France imposed a tax on U.S. tech companies.
“If they do that …we’ll be taxing their wine like they’ve never seen before,” Trump said.
Trump first hinted at taxing French wine in a tweet last month.
France just put a digital tax on our great American technology companies. If anybody taxes them, it should be their home Country, the USA. We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron’s foolishness shortly. I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2019
On a briefing to reporters, a senior administration official said the president is “not going to back down in the face of countries like France going after our industry.” The official said that discussions on economic growth have been scheduled for Sunday as a “last minute” request by the White House, where Trump is expected to push leaders on his trade agenda.
Speaking Friday ahead of the summit, European Council President Donald Tusk warned that trade wars between members of the G-7 will lead to “weakened trust” among them.
Trump’s threat to punish one of the most iconic industries of his host country ahead of the summit is adding to the tension among G-7 leaders, who remain at odds over issues ranging from climate change, how to deal with China and Iran, whether to bring Russia back into the fold, and Britain’s exit from the European Union.
With these deep divisions, consensus seems unlikely.
Tusk has acknowledged that “it has been increasingly difficult for us to find common language.” Meanwhile, Macron declared earlier there will be no joint communique at the end of the summit, citing disagreements involving Trump and other leaders on the key issues as one of the reasons.
It will be the first time in G-7 history that a summit will end without a communique.
One of the most highly anticipated bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit is between Trump and Boris Johnson, who took over as British prime minister after Theresa May failed to deliver on Brexit.
With less than three months until the deadline, Johnson was hammering the message earlier this week to get his country out of the EU in meetings with Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Johnson is hoping his meeting with Trump can further the prospect of a bilateral trade deal post-Brexit.
Analysts say such a deal is unlikely.
“There may be some people in the Trump camp who hope that there’s going to be some discussion of a U.S. – U.K. trade agreement,” said Matthew Goodman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “but I don’t think that’s very likely until the issues around Brexit are resolved.”
Tusk has stressed that the bloc will not cooperate with Britain on a no-deal Brexit. He said, “we are willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all EU member states,” but he added that he hopes Johnson will not go down in history as “Mr. No Deal.”
Trump is a long-time supporter of Brexit. In June, ahead of his visit to Britain, Trump urged Britain to go for a no-deal Brexit if it does not like the terms offered by the EU.
“If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away,” he said.
Trump and Johnson are known as controversial and unpredictable personalities. Many will be watching what kind of headlines the two leaders will generate in the summit over the weekend.