Leaders Arrive in Biarritz for the G7 Summit. Here’s Everything You Need to Know
President Donald Trump and the leaders of some of the U.S.’s closest allies have arrived in the French seaside town of Biarritz for the 45th Annual Group of 7 Summit.
For two days, leaders from the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Japan, as well as top E.U. officials, will discuss global challenges involving foreign policy, the economy and the protection of the environment. The aim of the meeting is to shape global responses to challenges affecting countries worldwide.
Police prepared for the summit by tightening security in Biarritz. The local airport and train station were closed for the weekend, surfers and sailers were banned from the surrounding coast, road checks were set up around the Spanish border and police throughout the town and on top of buildings, the Guardian reported.
Here’s what you need to know about the event bringing together leaders from some of the most powerful economies in the world.
President Trump Arrives at the G7 Summit
Prior to the summit, there were signs that President Trump’s attendance at the summit could be fraught. At last year’s summit in Quebec, Donald Trump clashed with other world leaders, highlighting differences between the U.S. and the rest of G7 members. Trump created even more tension last year by leaving early ahead of climate change talks and refusing to sign the final communiqué, an agreement statement signed by the heads of state. To avoid another dispute, French President Emmanuel Macron said this year’s meeting would end without a communiqué, abandoning a tradition held since the G7 meetings began in 1975.
This year, there were also doubts that he would attend at all after he failed to confirm his attendance in a meeting with French President Macron in June.
However, Trump struck a positive note at a lunch with Macron on Saturday, noting that two of them have been “friends for a long time.”
“Everybody is getting along. And I think we’ll accomplish a lot this weekend, and I look forward to it. And thank you for having us,” Trump said.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval office on Tuesday, just a few days before departing for the summit in France, President Trump said that Russia should be readmitted to the G7.
“I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” he said. “I could certainly see it being the G8 again.”
Trump made similar comments before last year’s meeting, and they were not well received by other leaders of Europe, Canada and Japan, who mostly rejected Russia’s return. Moscow was excluded from what was then the G8 in 2014 for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
What will be the big issues at this year’s G7 summit?
As this year’s host, Macron has chosen to focus this year’s summit on the issue of reducing inequality, and has invited the leaders of Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa to open up the discussion with other countries.
However, the summit is more likely to once again highlight transatlantic rifts over trade, Iran and climate change. Macron wants to focus on easing tensions between the U.S. and Iran that have been escalating since Trump pulled the country out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and reinstated economic sanctions.
While traveling to the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticized the U.S.-China trade war and said he wanted to see the countries lift their tariffs.
“This is not the way to proceed. Apart from anything else, those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether that is true,” Johnson said, according to the Guardian.
The fires raging in the Amazon also now appear to be at the top of Macron’s agenda. “Our house is burning. Literally,” the French president tweeted on Thursday. “The Amazon rainforest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon.”
His comments were not well received by the the president of Brazil. The country’s far-right leader Jair Bolsanaro replied in a tweet that Macron’s suggestion that the Amazon should be discussed at the G7, which Brazil does not attend, evokes “a misplaced colonialist mindset”.
The summit will also be an opportunity to address what Macron has called a “very profound crisis of representative democracy” in Europe. He has called for leaders to defend multilateralism and “not leave it to nationalists.”
Police Fire Water Cannon, Tear Gas at Protesters
Police fired a water canon at a group of around 400 ant-capitalist protesters in the town of Bayonne, France near the summit, the Associated Press reported. Several protesters threw rocks at police, and protesters had been blocking a road, but the gathering had peaceful overall.
Riot police also fired tear gas at activists in a confrontation in Urrugne, France near the Spanish border on Friday night, and 17 people were arrested for covering their faces and unauthorized gathering, the Guardian reported. The clash reportedly occurred at the edge of a camp for people attending an alternative summited on the environment. Four police were reportedly injured in the incident.
Earlier on Saturday about 9,000 people from different countries took part in a peaceful march from Hendaye, France to Irun, Spain to protest the summit, according to the Associated Press. Demonstrators expressed their support for climate change action, free trade deals, indigenous peoples and other matters.
What else can we expect?
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make his debut on the global stage, and it is still unclear where he will position himself. Britain is heading toward an exit from the E.U. without the deal in October, but a snap election could cut Johnson’s leadership short before then. The country’s influence in Europe has rapidly waned and it is now becoming increasingly reliant on the United States.
As this year’s host, France isn’t just concerned with appeasing tensions among world leaders. The country is also dealing with its own internal pressures. The city of Biarritz has been transformed into a “fortress” with unprecedented security measures and authorities have banned all protests in the city and in neighboring towns to avoid any disruption. The G7 summit has always encountered opposition, but the anti-government yellow vest movement that has emerged in the past year poses a bigger threat than before.
Write to Julia Webster at [email protected] and Tara Law at [email protected]