At the end of his trounce through the Middle East and Europe, which I wrote about last week, Donald Trump finished the week by attending the G-7 conference. As I said in my earlier post, Trump should never have been allowed out of the White House, let alone to attend such important meetings as NATO and the G-7.
A bit about the G-7:
The G-7, Group of Seven, is a group of leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States. A very high net national wealth and a very high Human Development Index are the main requirements to be a member of this group. The G-7 countries also represent 46% of the global GDP. The organization was founded to facilitate shared macroeconomic initiatives by its members in response to the collapse of the exchange rate 1971, during the time of the Nixon Shock, the 1970s energy crisis and the ensuing recession. Its goal was fine tuning of short term economic policies among participant countries to monitor developments in the world economy and assess economic policies. They meet between two and four times a year, and since 2005 the G-7 countries have recognized the threat of climate change and the need for a global agreement to address the issue. More recently, they have also addressed the refugee/migrant crisis and food security issues.
This year’s G-7 was held in Sicily, and it was Trump’s first experience with this type of conference. I can only hope it will be his last and that some other president will attend the next, as he made a shambles of what should have, could have, been an opportunity for the U.S. to reassure our allies of our cooperation.
Three major issues were on the agenda for the G-7 leaders this week: trade, climate change, and the refugee crisis.
The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan all signed a pledge supporting the 195-nation Paris climate deal Saturday. Donald Trump did not sign, stating instead that he would “make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!” While not a surprise, given the backward stance he has taken since his inauguration, it is unconscionable. 195 nations have placed their faith in science and in each other in a cooperative agreement to reduce carbon emissions, yet one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world refused. Trump has previously called global warming a hoax, and came under concerted pressure from the other leaders to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions.
His apparent reluctance to embrace the first-ever legally binding global climate deal that was signed by 195 countries clearly annoyed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said, “The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying. There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.” France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, however, shoes to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, saying he was sure Trump, who he praised as “pragmatist”, would back the deal having listened to his G7 counterparts. He’s the new kid, so I suppose he has to try to be nice.
Trump was somewhat more cooperative on trade issues. After his bluster on the campaign trail in which he threatened unilateral tariffs on Mexican and Chinese goods and said he would quit the North American Free Trade agreement unless it was renegotiated to his liking, expectations of cooperation were low. Earlier this week he called Germany “very bad” on trade because of its U.S. surplus. But he did agree at the G-7 to language in the final G7 communique that pledged “to fight all forms of protectionism” and committed to a rules-based international trade system. Of course whether he follows through with that pledge remains to be seen.
Refugee crisis and migration:
Italy had taken the lead on migration and the refugee crisis, and had prepared a comprehensive five-page statement that acknowledges migrants’ rights, the factors driving refugees and their positive contribution. It was hoped that the summit would end on Saturday with a bold statement that the world, and not just individual nations, had a responsibility for the refugee crisis. The Italian plans – one on human movement and another on food security – were set to be the centerpiece of its summit diplomacy.
However, Trump’s negotiators brought a new brief text of the final communique to a pre-meeting of the G7 on 26 April and said they were vetoing the Italian “human mobility” plan, which had been the subject of careful negotiation for months. I’m not quite sure who died and left Trump in charge, but he obviously assumed that his was the only opinion that counted. The new text, offered by the US on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, acknowledges the human rights of migrants, but affirms “the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels as key elements of their national security”. It should be noted that more than 1.300 refugees have drowned already this year attempting to make the journey from north Africa.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned to Germany on Saturday night and said to her countrymen:
“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over. This is what I experienced in the last few days.”
This comes as no surprise after the disastrous results of the NATO meeting where Trump refused to sign Article 5, the agreement for the member nations to come to the aid of each other if one is attacked. And then to fail to agree to uphold the Paris climate accord, and severely restrict the migration plan during the G-7 summit, shows a complete lack of desire to cooperate with our friends and allies. NATO and the other G-7 nations will do what they need to do, with or without Donald Trump. They will ultimately become stronger and more self-sufficient. They are not the losers in this … we are.
In addition to his lack of cooperation, he provided even more cause for embarrassment. All other leaders attending the G-7 summit walked 700 yards to take a group photo at a piazza in a hilltop town. The U.S. leader decided to wait until he could get a golf cart. For perspective, 700 yards is less than 4/10 of a mile. Less than ½ mile, and he refused to walk with the others. Look at the man … a bit of a walk certainly wouldn’t hurt him! He arrived late, and the others had to wait for him to be included in the photo.
All in all, as I said in my post of May 26th, Trump’s trip abroad was a disaster from the standpoint of our allies, a success in the eyes of our adversaries, and Trump himself brags “I think we hit a home run no matter where we are.” Believe me, this was a strike out, not a home run.