G7 summit to kick off in France as Amazon burns and Brexit drags on
August 24 2019 12:44 PM
Cutout of the heads of the G7 leaders are pictured ahead of the protest march during the G7 summit,
Cutout of the heads of the G7 leaders are pictured ahead of the protest march during the G7 summit, in Hendaye, France

Dpa/Biarritz, France

US President Donald Trump is due to land in France for the G7 summit on Saturday, where he is expected to engage in disputes with allies, including the host.

Trump has threatened taxes on French wine in response to Paris' recent move to impose a digital tax that Washington worries will hurt US tech giants. Europe, for its part, appears increasingly concerned by its own laggard position in the digital economy.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also pushing for the world's top democratic economies to tackle climate change, and he has pointed to the raging fires in the Amazon as a sign of the urgent need for action.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed similar concern about the rainforest, releasing a video message ahead of the summit in which she said she was ‘startled by the terrible fires in the Amazon.

‘We will work on how we can help and support and send a clear message that everything must be done to stop the rainforest from burning.’  Trump, however, is sceptical of the scientific evidence pointing to man-made climate change and has offered his support to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, even as Macron has lashed out at the right-wing Latin American leader.

A US official said ahead of the summit that Trump would raise environmental issues, but was opposed to measures that would stifle economic growth.

The other members of the elite club - which is made up of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan - tried to work with Trump at his first G7 in Italy in 2017, only for the US president to pull out of the Paris climate accord shortly after, undoing a key global agreement on the environment.

Last year, the president nullified his signature on the summit's joint closing statement from his aeroplane, amid what appeared to have been a clash of egos with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the host.

 Meanwhile, Brexit disarray is expected to be on display in Biarritz, the French seaside resort where this year's summit is taking place. New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet other European leaders as they disagree over the vexed issue of the post-Brexit Irish border.

Johnson is due to meet Trump during the summit, their first face-to-face as leaders. The Trump administration has been pushing for a trade deal with Britain once it leaves the European Union.

 The US president comes into the G7 - a grouping that goes back to the 1970s - with a worsening trade war with China on his hands.

 However, the White House has failed to create a coalition of allies in its fight with China, even as Trump pushes for decoupling from the Asian giant.

Instead, the US has antagonized its traditional partners, most recently when Trump cancelled a planned trip to Denmark, a NATO ally, over that country's refusal to sell him Greenland.

 Meanwhile, the US glue that held together an alliance in Asia appears to be fraying, with G7 member Japan feuding with South Korea.

 The trade war with China is contributing to a slowdown in global growth, though it is not the only cause.

 Founded as an economic forum, the G7 still presents a venue for some of the world's most important economies to try to right the ship.

 Attempting to revitalize a positive form of globalization, Macron has made global economic equality a focus of the summit.

Activists critical of global capitalism, who say the G7 leaders represent ‘a system in the service of the richest and of multinationals,’ have been holding a counter-summit in the nearby towns of Hendaye and Irun.

 They are planning a protest march there on Saturday, after early clashes with police led to 17 arrests on Friday evening, according to French news agency AFP.

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