Biarritz No common initiatives, maybe similar political objectives: The outlook for the G7 summit in Biarritz was modest after the first discussions on Saturday night and Sunday. The unexpected visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Sarif to Biarritz, which landed on Sunday afternoon and initially talked to his French colleague Jean-Yves Le Drian, added to the surprise effect.
French diplomats justified this with the "in-depth discussion" of the seven most influential Western industrialized countries (G7) during dinner. That, together with certain offers made by Sarif to President Emmanuel Macron, justifies an attempt to reduce tension in dialogue with the Iranians.
In terms of trade and economic weakness, host Emmanuel Macron does not seem to be able to persuade US President Donald Trump to make concessions. On Sunday noon, the French President even publicly had to give a kind of non-binding guarantee to end a beginning, carried out through the media conflict with Trump: In no question, the G7 could give a mandate, each state remained independent in its policies.
Before the meeting, Macron had made it clear that he was not aiming for a joint final communiqué in Biarritz. But the French Presidency tries to draft summit statements on specific political issues. Above all, they should concern global inequality, but also the classic G7 topics such as economics, trade and foreign policy.
On Sunday was still completely open, which topics will be agreed and, above all, who will put his signature at the bottom. Because these partial communiqués will not necessarily involve all G7 members (US, Canada, Japan, France, UK, Italy and Germany).
Macron had said in advance that he wanted to limit the trade war degenerating skirmish and plan to vote for a common growth initiative through a fiscal easing. On Sunday afternoon, he said to journalists more cautiously: "I hope we can express our clear intention to modernize the World Trade Organization and act together in tax policy, within the framework of the OECD."
During his lunch with Trump, he clearly told him "that a common tax, agreed in the OECD, would be much more intelligent than our national tax, which at a certain moment also affects American companies." Trump had threatened to impose additional duties on French wine because of the tax.
On Saturday Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire negotiated with his US colleague Steven Mnuchin on details of a minimum tax for global corporations. By the end of 2020, there should be agreement in the OECD.
Six against Trump
The first session on Sunday morning was about trade and the world economy. According to participants, the new punitive tariffs on airplanes and on cars, with which the US has been threatening Europeans for months, did not play a major role. Instead, it has been discussed in great detail about the increasingly tough trade war between the US and China. Trump had been talked into conscience by all participants: his new tariffs on Chinese products and Chinese countermeasures posed a threat to the global economy.
Whether that impressed him was not clear. He told US media yesterday that the negative market reaction to his recent announcement of higher tariffs and the call for US companies to withdraw completely from China left him cold.
Chancellor Angela Merkel focused during the meeting on the indication that the working capacity of the World Trade Organization (WTO) had to be secured. The US has been blocking the appointment of new judges for WTO arbitration for months. These are the most important instrument for bringing all Member States into compliance with the rules.
Merkel pointed out that without new judges, the WTO would not be able to work at the end of the year. In any case, this must be prevented, also in the interest of the US, since the arbitration courts can also be used to bring the Chinese to an acceptable process.
There was a lot of talk about the fires in the Amazon rainforest, but the operating result remained meager: The bosses did not decide on a relief fund, but there is probably support for the French push to combine rapid disaster relief with long-term reforestation efforts. For this, a new structure could be created. Clarity should prevail before the next UN General Assembly.
Macron, like the Irish government, has threatened that he will not ratify the EU's free trade agreement with the Mercosur Confederation. The reason is the reaction of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the fires. Germany and Spain, on the other hand, are pushing for the agreement to be realized because it contributes to stable global trade.
Proposal to Iran
On Sunday, a US-French dissent rocked over what had been discussed the night before at the dinner on Iran. French government circles reported that Macron would speak to the Iranians on behalf of the G7 to deliver a message to them with two goals: to prevent nuclear arming of the country and to do everything to ensure that the tensions in the Gulf do not turn into a military confrontation degenerate.
Trump then said in front of the camera that he was not aware of any such assignment. It was okay if Japanese and French spoke to the Iranians, but Iran has been a "completely different country" for two and a half years. "But I can not stop anyone from talking to the Iranians." Macron then rowed back and said he spoke to Iran in the name of France.
German circles called a Solomonic middle ground: Macron's talks were agreed with the British and German governments, and everyone in the G7 was for him to lead them. Paris intends to allow Iranians a limited crude oil export so that they have an incentive to stay with the agreement on limiting their nuclear program. Whether there is progress is one of the most exciting issues in Biarritz.
More: While Europe is arguing about the free trade agreement with the Mercosur Confederation, this is in crisis: Brazil threatens to exit.
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