Trump Golf Club In Florida To Host Next G7 Summit

From L) Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend a work session in the Casino of Biarritz on August 26, 2019.  AFP

 

Next year’s G7 summit will take place in one of Donald Trump’s Florida golf clubs, the president’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on Thursday.

The leaders’ summit is to take place in the United States, and Trump had previously suggested hosting it at one of his own golf clubs — drawing immediate criticism that he is profiteering from his presidency.

AFP

Poland Rejects Trump’s Bid For Russia’s G7 Return

From L) Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend a work session in the Casino of Biarritz on August 26, 2019, on the third and last day of the annual G7 Summit attended by the leaders of the world’s seven richest democracies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.  Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP

 

Poland’s president on Monday opposed a proposal by US President Donald Trump to reintegrate Russia into the elite G7 group, insisting that “business as usual” was unacceptable given Moscow’s occupation of Ukrainian territory.

“Should we have a business as usual approach towards Russia?… I believe that we cannot under the current circumstances,” President Andrzej Duda told reporters at a joint press conference with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence.

The issue of Russia’s reintegration into the G7 group of the world’s rich nations divided leaders at its summit last week in France, as Trump pushed for Moscow to be allowed back after its 2014 expulsion.

Russia was kicked out of what was then the Group of Eight after it annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, a move never recognised by the international community.

But Trump, who will host next year’s G7 summit, said he would invite Russia to the event, a move supported by France but criticised by Britain and Germany. Poland is not a G7 member.

Speaking alongside Duda on Monday, Pence struck a different tone, insisting that it was crucial to “remain vigilant” towards Russia.

He accused Moscow of attempting to meddle in elections and use its oil and gas supplies to “divide our alliance”, in an apparent reference to the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline set to send Russian gas to Germany.

Washington and Warsaw, among others, oppose the pipeline, fearing it will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies which Moscow could then use to exert political pressure.

Poland has long cultivated close ties with the US, which it regards as the primary guarantor of its security within the NATO alliance and as a bulwark against Russia, its Soviet-era master with whom tensions still run high.

Judicial independence 

Pence and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki were to sign a joint US-Polish declaration on digital infrastructure security later Monday.

“This declaration, we believe, will set a vital example for the rest of Europe on the broader question of 5G,” Pence had told reporters earlier.

The US is pressing allies, with mixed success, to reject Chinese 5G technology, especially from the giant mobile phone company Huawei.

Washington fears that Huawei will provide Beijing with a way to spy on communications from the countries that use its products and services.

Pence also said he had discussed the “importance of judicial independence” with Duda in the wake of a string of controversial judicial reforms pushed through by Poland’s right-wing government since taking office in 2015.

The EU has slammed the measures as a threat to the rule of law and ultimately democracy.

Pence also said that Poles travelling to the US would soon be covered by Washington’s visa-waiver programme, allowing them unrestricted entry.

“We are literally weeks away from being able to make that a reality,” Pence said.

The US vice president travelled to Warsaw for Sunday ceremonies marking 80 years since the outbreak of World War II.

President Trump had planned to attend the war commemorations but cancelled at the last minute to monitor Hurricane Dorian.

Without going into detail, Trump confirmed on Sunday in Washington that he had only postponed his trip and would travel to Poland “soon”.

AFP

G7 Pledges Millions To Fight Amazon Fires

Handout aerial picture released by Greenpeace showing fire raging in the forest in the municipality of Candeias do Jamari, close to Porto Velho in Rondonia State, in the Amazon basin in northwestern Brazil, on August 24, 2019.  PHOTO: Victor MORIYAMA / GREENPEACE / AFP

 

The G7 will give $20 million (18 million euros) to send firefighting planes to tackle the blazes engulfing parts of the Amazon, the presidents of France and Chile said Monday.

“We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” France’s Emmanuel Macron said as President Sebastian Pinera of Chile, a guest of the G7, underlined that “countries of the Amazon are in dire need of fire brigades and water bomber planes.”

Nearly 80,000 forest fires have been detected in Brazil since the beginning of the year — just over half of them in the massive Amazon basin.

Macron had declared the situation an “international crisis” and made it a priority of the summit of the G7, which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

G7 leaders gathered in Biarritz held talks on the many environmental challenges facing planet Earth, with a focus on the record number of fires destroying swathes of the Amazon.

Macron has threatened to block a huge new trade deal between the EU and Latin America unless Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic, takes serious steps to protect the fast-shrinking forest from logging and mining.

Bolsonaro lashed out at the French leader over his criticism and suggested NGOs could be setting the fires to embarrass him — without giving any evidence to back the claim.

But at the weekend, he finally caved in to international pressure to save a region crucial for maintaining a stable global climate, deploying two aircraft to douse fires and authorising the army to help tackle the blazes.

 ‘Universal heritage’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his country would send a water bomber plane to fight the Amazon blazes and contribute some $15 million to the effort.

The G7 also agreed to support a reforestation plan to be unveiled in September, the leaders said.

Brazil would have to agree to any reforestation plan, as would indigenous communities living in the world’s biggest rainforest.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said new planting was needed “to preserve this universal heritage, which is absolutely essential for the well-being of the world’s population.”

He said the issue would be discussed during the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Macron told France 2 it was hoped “at least 30 million” dollars could be raised for the project.

On Monday evening, the French leader met Brazilian indigenous chief Raoni Metuktire, who said he had asked Macron to “help us preserve our lands.”

“The forests and lands of Brazil help the entire planet live,” said the chief, an advocate for indigenous rights.

Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan welcomed the G7 aid, but said the club must also “stop fuelling the destruction of the Amazon through the import of agricultural products associated with deforestation and soil degradation.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised 10 million pounds ($12 million) for Amazon reforestation projects, while luxury fashion giant LVMH pledged 10 million euros.

AFP

Johnson ‘Marginally’ More Optimistic On Brexit Deal After G7

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that he was “marginally more optimistic” on the chances of clinching a deal for Britain’s exit from the EU after talks at the G7 this weekend, but acknowledged it would be difficult.

“I am marginally more optimistic,” he said after intense contacts on Brexit at the G7 with fellow leaders.

But he added: “It will be difficult… there is a substantial disagreement” between Britain and the EU.

Johnson insisted that it was up to the EU to improve the chances of a deal but needed to negotiate a new agreement on leaving without the so-called “backstop” for Ireland.

The backstop provision, strongly opposed by Johnson’s government and Brexit supporters, is meant to guarantee that border checks will not return between Ireland, an EU member, and Britain’s Northern Ireland.

The EU has so far rejected negotiating a new deal, which was approved by the government under Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May but repeatedly rejected by the British parliament.

“All the statistical estimates I give for a deal… they all depend exclusively on the willingness of our friends and partners (in the EU) to compromise on that crucial point and get rid of the backstop and the current withdrawal agreement.”

Addressing concerns he is prepared to ignore parliament so that Britain leaves the EU on October 31, Johnson said British people were tired of reading about Brexit on the front pages of their newspapers.

“I think that this is a matter for parliamentarians to get right themselves,” he said, adding that it was up to lawmakers to implement the outcome of the 2016 referendum that called for the EU exit.

“People have just about had enough of this conversation and they are yearning for a moment when Brexit comes off the front pages. But that can only happen when we come out of the EU on October 31,” he said.

Johnson also reaffirmed that if Britain left the EU without a deal it would not pay all of the £39 billion ($47 billion, 43 billion euro) divorce bill that has already been negotiated.

He did not specify how much, if any, would be paid.

“Under any circumstances, if there is a no-deal outcome, very substantial sums will be available from the 39 billion for the UK to spend on our priorities, including managing that no-deal scenario,” he said.

The EU insists Britain must pay the bill even if it crashes out of the bloc without a deal.

G7 Leaders Divided Over Russia’s Readmission

From L) Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend a work session in the Casino of Biarritz on August 26, 2019. Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP

 

The future reintegration of Russia into the elite G7 group of the world’s rich nations has proved an explosive issue at a summit in France, with leaders divided over whether to allow Moscow back in after its 2014 expulsion.

Russia was kicked out of what was then the Group of  Eight (G8) as Moscow was holding its presidency after it annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, a move never recognised by the international community.

But US President Donald Trump, who will host the next Group of Seven summit in 2020, has spoken out in favour of readmitting Russia.

READ ALSO: Macron Condemns ‘Extraordinarily Rude’ Bolsonaro Insults

And the host of this year’s event, French President Emmanuel Macron, has also said it would be appropriate to include Russia if key conditions were met.

However Britain, whose ties with Russia hit a new low following the 2018 chemical poisoning on its territory of Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal which London blamed on the Kremlin, has spoken out against Moscow’s readmittance.

 ‘Difficult talks’ 

The issue came to a head during lengthy discussions at the leaders’ first official G7 dinner on Saturday, where the premiers and heads of state — also including Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada — put forward “forthright” positions on the issue, said a source close to the discussions, asking not to be named.

“You did very well last night President Macron,” Johnson told his French host on Sunday as the leaders met for a session to discuss the world economy. “That was a difficult one.”

Sources later confirmed that Johnson had been referring to Macron’s stewardship of the dinner in the debate over Russia as the leaders pushed their “strong” views on the matter.

Diplomatic sources said the leaders agreed to be in favour of reinforcing coordination with Russia, but that it was too early for reintegration.

“I think it’s advantageous (for Russia to rejoin) but other people don’t necessarily agree with me at this time,” said Trump as the G7 wound up on Monday. “We will see what happens.”

Macron had said in the run-up to the summit that it would be “appropriate” for Russia to rejoin the group and less than a week before the event held several hours of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his summer residence.

But Macron said first a solution had to be found for Ukraine, where in addition to the annexation of Crimea, pro-Moscow separatists declared unrecognised breakaway statelets in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who shares Britain’s wariness about Russia rejoining the group, said herself, Macron, Putin and new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would soon meet in a bid to relaunch the peace process.

 ‘Is Russia on that path?’ 

Moscow joined the group in 1998 — when the G7 became the G8 — under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin as the West tried to anchor post-Soviet Russia into the international community.

But tensions intensified throughout Putin’s ascendancy in Russia and he skipped a 2012 G8 summit hosted by the United States shortly after he was re-elected president following a stint as prime minister.

Ironically, Russia held the G8 presidency in 2014 but a planned summit in June of that year in the Black Sea resort of Sochi never took place as it was expelled from the group. The other seven countries instead met in Brussels.

Like Britain, Canada also strongly opposes readmitting Russia unless seized Ukrainian territory is handed back.

EU Council President Donald Tusk meanwhile said that “under no condition” could he accept the logic that the status quo in Ukraine be accepted and Russia return to the G8.

“The reasons why Russia was disinvited in 2014 are still valid,” said Tusk.

“When Russia was invited to the G7 for the first time (under Yeltsin) it was believed that it would pursue the path of liberal democracy, rule of law and human rights.

“Is there anyone among us, who can say out of full conviction, not out of business calculation, that Russia is on that path?” Tusk asked, retorting it should be Zelensky, not Putin, who is invited to the next G7.

Iran Foreign Minister Makes Surprise Visit To G7 Summit

 

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew into Biarritz in southwestern France for the G7 summit on Sunday in a surprise attempt to break a diplomatic deadlock over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.

Zarif’s presence had not been announced and represented a gamble by French host Emmanuel Macron who is seeking to soothe spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States.

The Iranian top diplomat did not hold talks with US President Donald Trump in the French surf town, French diplomats said, but the presence of the two men in the same place sparked hopes of a detente.

“Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying,” the US-educated Zarif wrote on Twitter after meeting Macron and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as well as British and German officials.

French officials said Trump had been aware of the arrival and suggested that it had been discussed during an impromptu two-hour lunch with Macron on a hotel terrace on Saturday.

“We work with full transparency with the Americans,” one diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Robert Malley, head of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said that it was a sign that Trump had given “some positive response” to Macron’s proposals for a deal.

“Maybe President Trump told President Macron privately that he was open to some of these ideas,” he told AFP.

“The big caveat, the elephant in the room, is that there is considerable room between what President Trump says and what he thinks one day, and what he says and thinks the next,” he added.

Also speaking in Biarritz, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump had in the past said that if Iran “wants to sit down and negotiate he will not set preconditions.”

French officials said the discussions had been “positive” and Zarif left the beach-side gathering in the evening.

– ‘Moving in right direction’ –
Macron had held talks with Zarif in Paris on the eve of the G7 summit and has been leading efforts to bring Tehran and Washington back to the negotiating table.

Trump’s policy of applying “maximum pressure” on Tehran via crippling sanctions has been criticised by European powers and is seen as raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

At the end of July, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on Zarif, saying he “spreads the regime’s propaganda and disinformation.”

Macron has urged the US administration to offer some sort of relief to Iran, such as lifting sanctions on oil sales to China and India, or a new credit line to enable exports.

In return, Iran would return to complying with a landmark 2015 deal limiting its nuclear programme, which Trump unilaterally pulled out from last year, Malley explained.

“I suspect that they (the French) are as cautious as I am,” Malley added.

Speaking to AFP last week, Zarif said that Macron’s suggestions were “moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet.”

Zarif was a key architect of the 2015 nuclear deal reached between Iran, the United States, European powers, Russia and China.

– Trade war doubts? –
The G7 leaders, spouses and other invitees from South America and Africa wrapped up their long day with a group photo on a stage overlooking the Biarritz beach, with the city’s tall lighthouse in the background.

They were all smiles and Trump proclaimed that the G7 summit had been going “beautifully.”

However, there was no masking over cracks between the US president and his allies on many issues.

Leaders of the G7 countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — put on a united front as they spent a second day in the high-end French surfing town of Biarritz.

Trump arrived in Biarritz fresh from having drastically upped the ante in the trade war with China.

European leaders lined up to press for caution and on Sunday Trump gave a glimmer of hope that he was reconsidering his all-or-nothing approach to the dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.

Asked whether he was having second thoughts about the trade war, Trump, in a rare moment of public self-doubt, replied: “I have second thoughts about everything.”

Then in an extraordinary turnaround, Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said just hours later that the president had been misunderstood.

He did have regrets, she said, but not what everyone thought.

“He regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” she explained.

At a breakfast meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the latest of the G7 partners to urge Trump to step back from a trade war that critics fear could tip the world economy into recession.

“Just to register a faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war — we are in favour of trade peace on the whole,” Johnson told Trump.

The meeting with Johnson, who is sometimes seen as a British version of the populist, nationalist Trump, underlined the White House’s dislike for the powerful European Union.

Trump predicted that Johnson would manage to untangle the mess of Brexit and described the EU as “an anchor around their ankle.”

The 73-year-old US leader then promised Johnson a “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had.”

Trump Backs Johnson, Sends Mixed Signals About China At G7

US President Donald Trump (R) and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak before a working breakfast at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France on August 25, 2019, on the second day of the annual G7 Summit attended by the leaders of the world’s seven richest democracies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. Erin Schaff / POOL / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Sunday backed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the “right man” for Brexit and sent mixed signals about his trade war with China at a G7 summit dominated by worries about the global economy.

Johnson and Trump were on obviously friendly terms as they sat down for a working breakfast in the southern French resort of Biarritz where Group of Seven leaders are gathering this weekend.

“He’s going to be a fantastic prime minister,” Trump said in their first meeting since Johnson took office last month.

Asked what his advice was for Brexit, Trump replied: “He needs no advice. He’s the right man for the job. I’ve been saying that for a long time.”

In the lead-up to the talks, Johnson had appeared at pains to distance himself from Trump after facing accusations in the past of being too cosy with the American leader.

And at their meeting, Johnson again pressed a common message from European leaders at the summit about Trump’s escalating trade war with China.

“Just to register a faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war — we are in favour of trade peace on the whole,” Johnson told Trump.

The 73-year-old US leader promised Johnson “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had”, but couldn’t resist another undiplomatic dig at the European Union.

Trump compared it to an “anchor around their ankle”.

‘Respect the trade war’

But to the relief of his partners, Trump also appeared to back off from a threatened further escalation in his battle with China.

“I think they respect the trade war. It has to happen,” Trump told reporters.

Asked whether he was having second thoughts, he replied: “I have second thoughts about everything.”

The Basque resort of Biarritz, which at this time of year usually teems with surfers and sunbathers, has been turned into a fortress for the G7 event with over 13,000 police on duty.

An anti-capitalism demonstration in nearby Bayonne turned ugly Saturday night when the crowd of several hundred tried to get through police barricades and was repelled with water cannon and tear gas.

Earlier on Saturday, organisers in the French border town of Hendaye said 15,000 people rallied in a peaceful march over the Bidassoa River towards the Spanish town of Irun.

G7 summits, gathering Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, were once a meeting of like-minded allies, but they have become a diplomatic battlefield in the Trump era.

“This may be the last moment to restore our political community,” EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Saturday.

Iran divisions

Over an open dinner of red tuna at the foot of a landmark lighthouse in the famed surf town of Biarritz, the leaders began talks on Saturday night attempting to narrow their differences.

The US-China trade war, but also fires in the Amazon and the Iranian nuclear crisis, were on the menu.

“You did very well last night President Macron,” Johnson told his French host as the leaders met for a session to discuss the world economy. “That was a difficult one.”

In a sign of the difficulties, Macron thought he had agreed a common G7 position on Iran to try to find a way out of the current impasse that has seen tensions spiral in the Middle East.

Macron said in an interview to French television that they had “agreed on what to say to Iran”.

But Trump, who has previously accused Macron of sending “mixed signals” to Iran, denied it.

“We’ll do our own outreach. But you can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk,” he said.

In a radical break from previous meetings of the elite club, there is to be no final statement at the end of the talks on Monday, an admission of lowered expectations.

Macron has also invited several world leaders from outside the G7 such as India’s Narendra Modi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who will join the meeting on Sunday.

Macron is also pushing for action against fires in the Amazon rainforest, despite Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s angry response to what he sees as outside interference.

Merkel-Trump Face-Off Photo Makes History Books

Photo released on Twitter by the German Government’s spokesman Steffen Seibert on June 9, 2018 and taken by the German government’s photographer Jesco Denzel shows US President Donald Trump (R) talking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and surrounded by other G7 leaders during a meeting of the G7 Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada.                                  Jesco Denzel / Bundesregierung / AFP

 

A photo posted by the German government showing a determined Angela Merkel standing up to an intransigent Donald Trump appears destined for the history books, summing up the deep fractures left by a disastrous G7 summit.

The already iconic picture by Berlin’s official photographer at the gathering in Canada, Jesco Denzel, set social media alight when it appeared on Saturday, hours before Trump ripped up the hard-fought summit conclusions in an angry tweetstorm.

The image, which drew comparisons to a Baroque painting, shows Merkel standing at the centre of the frame leaning across a table before a seated Trump, his arms crossed in defiance.

Looking focused or exasperated depending on the viewer’s interpretation, Merkel is flanked by British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron, their faces largely obscured. Shinzo Abe of Japan looks on with a world-weary expression.

Many saw a distillation of a crisis of the West in the photograph, and a revival of the debate launched by US and British media after Trump’s 2016 election whether Merkel was the new “leader of the free world”.

National broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung noted the moniker had made Merkel “uncomfortable” at the time.

“She thought it was exaggerated, hasty, inappropriate. A year and a half later, this restraint is no longer up-to-date or appropriate… If Merkel doesn’t rise to the occasion, it can quickly mean the end of the post-war order in Europe.”

Other observers underlined a victory for Berlin’s spin doctors.

“A hands-down public relations triumph for Germany,” news weekly Der Spiegel said of the picture that seemed to capture the world’s imagination.

‘1:0 for the US president’ 

A winner, however, is in the eye of the beholder.

Elisabeth Wehling, a US-based political linguistics researcher, tweeted that the body language clearly pointed to Trump dominating the scene.

“1:0 for the US president! Sitting while the other stands is a classic strategy of gestural framing, to establish one’s own authority and propagate it via pictures — it works on global media because it transcends language barriers,” she wrote.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who stands next to Trump in the picture, tweeted it during the summit to tout the America First message.

“Just another #G7 where other countries expect America will always be their bank,” he wrote.

“The President made it clear today. No more. (photo by @RegSprecher),” crediting Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert’s account for the image for good measure.

Seibert said laconically Monday that he had posted the photo on Twitter and Instagram simply to “give an overview of the chancellor’s work and the intense working atmosphere at a G7” summit.

Regardless of the interpretation, the image succeeded in launching an internet-wide caption contest.

Belgian Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the European Parliament’s liberal group, chose the tagline: “Just tell us what Vladimir has on you. Maybe we can help,” in a tart reference to alleged collusion between Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government and the Trump team to influence the US presidential election.

“This looks like an episode of Celebrity Apprentice where Trump is about to fire Angela Merkel because her strudel marketing plan fell through,” Washington-based comedian Tim Young tweeted.

Doctored images showed the US president as a petulant child — including memes with Trump overturning a bowl of noodles on his head or clutching a teddy bear as Merkel sternly looks on.

‘Won’t be bamboozled’ 

But the humour couldn’t mask a deep sense of unease that the end of the transatlantic partnership was nigh.

Far from taking a victory lap, Merkel told German public television late Sunday that she found the summit’s implosion “sobering and a little depressing” and called it a “momentous step” taken by Trump.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose office for the first time in the history of the republic has reportedly ordered an overhaul of Germany’s US policy, went further.

“You can destroy an incredible amount of trust very quickly in a tweet,” he said.

“Europe United is the answer to America First.”

Germany, Europe’s top economy, finds itself in the sights of the US president due to its large trade surplus and defence spending criticised as too low by NATO.

Merkel acknowledged that the moment had arrived for Germany and Europe to rethink their role in the world.

The European Union must develop “a joint strategic culture”, she said, “otherwise Europe will be ground up in a world with very strong poles” of power elsewhere.

With an eye to the trade dispute, she added, “we won’t be bamboozled — we will take action.”

AFP

G7 Summit Fails To Heal Trade Rift As Trump Stands Alone

US President Donald Trump.  Photo: JIM WATSON / AFP

 

The leaders of the G7 on Saturday failed to heal a tariff dispute that has pushed them to the brink of a trade war, as Donald Trump quit their summit early and warned Canada, Japan and Europe that “the gig is up.”

Trump had come to Quebec insisting on his long-standing claim that America has been exploited for too long by existing trade arrangements — and he was met by counterparts equally determined to protect the “rules-based” international system.

The US president left on Saturday for Singapore and a historic summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, claiming he had made progress in convincing the other G7 leaders that trade between their countries must be better balanced or halt altogether.

“I guess they’re going to go back to the drawing board and check it out, right?” he said, warning that if his fellow leaders make good on threats to take retaliatory measures, they could find themselves shut out of American markets.

“The European Union is brutal to the United States … They know it,” he added. “When I’m telling them, they’re smiling at me. You know, it’s like the gig is up.”

European officials said Trump had opposed language in the draft final summit communique on the need to bolster the World Trade Organization and multilateral oversight of commerce, but that this commitment would survive.

“For us, it was important to have a commitment to rules-based trade,” Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will assume the G7 presidency after Canada, said work would continue.

“This stage was an important stage but nevertheless it’s only a stage and it does not resolve everything, and so we plan to continue our work in the coming months,” he said.

As the leaders met, Trump played a wild card, suggesting that rather than both sides boosting retaliatory tariffs — as he has just done on steel and aluminium — they could declare for entirely free trade in the G7 zone.

“No tariffs, no barriers. That’s the way it should be. And no subsidies. I even said, ‘no tariffs’!” Trump insisted. “That would be the ultimate thing, whether or not that works, but I did suggest it.”

Trump’s utopian idea was greeted with scepticism — “Good luck. That would be a leap into a very different world,” declared one senior European official — with leaders pointing to the many regulations and non-tariff barriers that limit free trade.

Macron, for example, noted that under European Union rules France currently has open borders with Britain and Germany and runs trade deficits with both — far from Trump’s vision of “reciprocal” balanced trade.

European officials suggested that the upbeat, punchy news conference that Trump delivered before skipping out on the summit was aimed at his trade-sceptic supporters back home and did not reflect the results of the summit.

“We’re talking to all countries,” Trump said, denouncing what he said were huge existing tariffs on US exports around the world. “It’s going to stop. Or we’ll stop trading with them. And that’s a very profitable answer if we have to do it.

“If they retaliate, they’re making a mistake,” he warned, insisting that the United States has much less to lose than its partners in the event of world trade breaking down. “We will win that war 1,000 times.”

The text of the annual G7 joint communique is usually all but finalized before the leaders meet for two days of glad-handing and group photo opportunities, but this year officials were still negotiating even as Trump headed for his plane.

Whatever the text eventually says, Canada’s summit will be remembered mainly for fierce disagreements over Trump’s tariffs and his surprise request to return Russia to the G7 fold, four years after its expulsion over the annexation of Crimea.

On Saturday, while diplomats wrangled in private, summit host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gathered the other leaders for a breakfast session on women’s equality.

Trump arrived 17 minutes after the planned 8:00 am start time and after Trudeau’s opening remarks, earning him glares from fellow leaders and heads of international institutions.

A member of Macron’s team characterized Friday’s talks as “frank and robust,” with Trump first repeating his lengthy diatribe about what he regards as unfair trade restrictions — before the Europeans responded with facts and figures they felt would blunt his argument.

Trudeau told Trump that it was “unacceptable” to cite national security when targeting a military ally like Canada.

The summit was wrapping up just as Chinese President Xi Jinping begins hosting the leaders of Russia and Iran at a two-day regional security meeting in a symbol of the power-play between East and West.

AFP

No Russia G7 Return Without Ukraine ‘Progress’ – Merkel

File photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel by MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

The European members of the G7 are agreed that Russia cannot be readmitted into the club until there is an improvement in the crisis in Ukraine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.

“We are in agreement that a return of Russia to the G7 cannot happen unless substantial progress is made in terms of the problems with Ukraine,” Merkel told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing G7 summit in Canada.

Merkel spoke following a meeting with the leaders of Italy, Britain and France which came in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump’s call to readmit Russia.

The decision to kick Russia out of what had been the G8 was in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which was widely denounced as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

G7, Tech Giants Agree On Plan To Block Jihadist Content Online

G7 countries and tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter on Friday agreed to work together to block the dissemination of Islamist extremism over the internet.

“These are the first steps towards a great alliance in the name of freedom,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said after a two-day meeting with his Group of Seven counterparts, stressing the role of the internet in extremist “recruitment, training and radicalisation.”

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the goal was to ensure pro-jihadist content “is taken down within two hours of it going online.”

“Our enemies are moving at the speed of a tweet and we need to counter them just as quickly,” acting US Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said.

While acknowledging progress had been made, Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd insisted “companies need to go further and faster to not only take down extremist content but also stop it being uploaded in the first place”.

Senior executives from the internet giants and Microsoft attended the ministerial session devoted to the issue but did not offer any explanation of how they might go about clamping down on web extremists.

— Jihadists fleeing Syria —

The meeting on the Italian island of Ischia off Naples also focused on ways to tackle one of the West’s biggest security threats: jihadist fighters fleeing Syria. The European Union has promised to help close a migration route considered a potential back door for terrorists.

Tens of thousands of citizens from Western countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State group between 2014 and 2016. Some then returned home and staged attacks that claimed dozens of lives.

Minniti warned last week that fighters planning revenge attacks following the recent collapse of the IS stronghold in Raqa could hitch lifts back to Europe on migrant boats from Libya.

The United States and Italy signed an agreement on the sidelines of the G7 meeting to share their fingerprint databases in a bid to root out potential extremists posing as asylum seekers.

– ‘De-radicalisation’ –

Earlier, EU President Donald Tusk promised the bloc would fork out more funds to help shut down the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy — a popular path for migrants who hope to journey on to Europe.

The EU would offer “stronger support for Italy’s work with the Libyan authorities”, and there was “a real chance of closing the central Mediterranean route”, he said.

Italy has played a major role in training Libya’s coastguard to stop human trafficking in its territorial waters, as well as making controversial deals with Libyan militias to stop migrants from setting off.

Minniti said the G7 ministers had discussed how to go about “de-radicalising” citizens returning from the IS frontline, to prevent them becoming security risks in jails.

The ministers had also brainstormed on how to tackle the legal headache of prosecuting returnees, amid questions over what sort of evidence, collected by whom, could be used in a domestic court.

– ‘Malware of terror’ –

The Group of Seven — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US — said it had also called on the web giants to work with their smaller partners to bolster the anti-extremism shield.

“IS took to the technology world like a fish to water,” Minniti said, adding that it was time to unleash the antidote to its “malware of terror”.

Rudd said the UK government would do its part by changing the law so that those accessing and viewing extremist material on the web could face up to 15 years behind bars.

But Julian Richards, security specialist at BUCSIS (Buckingham University Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies), said the rest of the G7 was unlikely to get behind her on that front.

“The UK’s fairly hard approach of introducing legislative measures to try to force companies to cooperate… and suggestions that people radicalising online should have longer sentences, are often considered rather unpalatable and too politically sensitive in many other advanced countries,” he told AFP.

AFP

G7 To Put Squeeze On Internet Giants At Terror Talks

Tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter will come under pressure in Italy this week to go further and faster in helping G7 powers tackle the ever-greater threat of extremists online.

A two-day meeting of Group of Seven interior ministers, which kicks off on the Italian island of Ischia on Thursday, comes just days after US-backed forces took full control of Raqa in Syria, which had become a byword for atrocities carried out by the Islamic State group.

Despite the breakthrough in the battle against IS, the head of Britain’s domestic intelligence service said Tuesday that the UK was facing its most severe terrorist threat ever, particularly due to the spread of jihadist material online.

MI5 head Andrew Parker said attacks could now accelerate rapidly from inception to action, and “this pace, together with the way extremists can exploit safe spaces online, can make threats harder to detect”.

In a first for a G7 meeting, representatives from Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter will take part in the talks between the seven ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

“The internet plays a decisive role in radicalization. Over 80 percent of conversations and radicalisation happen online,” said Italy’s Marco Minniti, who is hosting the summit on the volcanic island off Naples.

– ‘Wake up’ –
“We need to study a system for automatically blocking specific content. IS contaminated the web with a ‘terror malware’. The providers need to help us block this malware with an automatic antivirus,” Minniti said.

“We don’t want to impose anything, success will rely on us having a collaborative spirit,” he added.

In June, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube announced the launch of an anti-terror partnership, the “Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism”, aimed at thwarting the spread of extremist content online.

Facebook has launched campaigns in Belgium, Britain, France and Germany to develop “best practices”.

And in September, Twitter touted victories in the battle against tweets promoting extremist violence, saying it has been vanquishing those kinds of accounts before governments even ask.

But last month top Western counter-terror chiefs said they need more support from social media companies to detect potential threats, particularly with jihadist attacks increasingly being carried out by home-grown “lone wolves”.

Tough privacy laws and protections enjoyed by the largely US-based web giants are impeding authorities, they said.

Some firms are using software aimed at helping them quickly find and eliminate extremist content, developed by Dartmouth College computer science professor Hany Farid, a senior advisor to the US Counter Extremism Project.

But Farid told AFP it was unclear how broadly it was being deployed and urged the G7 to “give serious consideration to legislative relief” if the tech giants fail to “wake up and respond more aggressively” to abuses of their systems.

– Dark web vs ‘likes’ –

While some warn terror online will be difficult to conquer, with extremists simply moving onto the dark web, Italian expert Marco Lombardi said jihadists would not readily give up the mass-audience potential of social media.

Opportunities for “conversion, propaganda and dissemination” lie “on sites capable of influencing thousands of youngsters with a few ‘likes’,” said Lombardi, director of the research centre ITSTIME (Italian Team for Security, Terrorist Issues & Managing Emergencies).

The British government has outlined an internet safety strategy with proposals it will likely share with fellow G7 members, including an attempt to persuade leading web players to pay for measures to combat dangers.

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While Germany has focused particularly on defending itself from cyber attacks, it launched the ZITis surveillance agency last month, which will specialise in “digital forensics” as part of its strategy to fight terrorism.

For its part, despite being labelled an enemy by IS, Japan has escaped attacks to date. Nevertheless, in June its lawmakers passed a controversial bill allowing authorities to target terror conspiracies.

AFP