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A leader emerges

  • Published at 12:02 am September 8th, 2019
File photo: French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Donald Trump, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel , Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italy's acting Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and European Council President Donald Tusk attend a G7 working session on "International Economy and Trade, and International Security Agenda"during the G7 summit, in Biarritz on August 25, 2019 Reuters

How Macron became the voice of reason at the G7

Troubled by street demonstrations in Paris on a regular basis for the last few months, President Emmanuel Macron made a wise decision to convene the recently concluded annual G7 Summit in Biarritz instead of the capital.

This enabled him to avoid the Gilets Jaunes movement disrupting the meeting.

There were also informal meetings on the sidelines between these leaders and heads of government from other countries.

There were several dimensions that evolved during the meeting. They generated interest and world attention instead of confusion.

It was not a repeat of what had happened the last time round in Canada. The first matter that drew the G7 attention was the need to address the issue of the ongoing fires that were raging in the Amazon forest in Brazil.

President Macron described the fires as an “international crisis” and pushed for them to be prioritized at the G7 summit. After intensive discussion at the G7 Summit, it was agreed to provide logistical and financial support to help fight fires in the Amazon rainforest.

The severity of the fires and the global outcry eventually prompted a response by Brazil’s President Bolsonaro. He authorized the military to help tackle the blazes through military intervention in seven Brazilian states. Bolsanaro eventually also agreed to accept the funds offered by G7 if Brazil could control the disbursement of these funds.

Such a measure to contain the situation is being viewed as an example of Macron’s commitment towards fighting the factors that can create climate variability and expedite global warming. 

The second issue that drew world attention was the sudden arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Biarritz. Zarif’s surprise appearance was consistent with efforts by European leaders to salvage the nuclear deal agreed to in 2015 but affected after Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018.

This effort was obviously undertaken because France and Germany both believe that there needs to be a resolution of the growing tensions between the US and Iran. 

Iran’s President Rouhani has responded by pointing out that Tehran was ready for talks, but that “first the US should act by lifting all illegal, unjust, and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran.”

The next subject that drew the attention of the other six members of G7 was that of the way the US was handling its existing differences on matters of trade with China. 

A required solution in this regard was further heightened through an agreement in principle among G7 Members on the taxation of tech giants.

The resolution of this dispute drew careful attention of the other members towards the continuing issues that were creating problems between China and the US with regard not only to investment but also different elements related to industrialization. 

The deepening trade war with China noted is occurring at a nervous moment for the US administration with growth slowing in Europe and some indicators suggesting the US could experience a slowdown. Concern along these lines mounted after China’s retaliatory move on tariffs on August 23, which was met with an extraordinary tirade by Trump against Beijing and Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell.

This raised questions among G7 member analysts about US coherence on economic policy and how a possible world recession might have to be met during the forthcoming US presidential election year.

While Trump still has majority approval for his handling of the economy in the poll, only 25% of those asked have remarked that they believed his handling of trade with China will actually work. 

Trump has tried to draw attention to the fact that despite the worsening trade imbroglio with China, good economic news had been created through the possibility of a free trade deal with Japan. 

Macron, at the end of the summit, tried to ease tensions with a statement that he and others in the G7 were hoping very much that an agreement is found between the two most important economic powers.

The fact that the summit ended without a final communique underlined Macron’s strategy about creating a semblance of unity rather than discord as happened during the 44th summit last year in Canada. Macron will be remembered for creating a veneer that would enable participants to call the glass half-full rather than half-empty. 

Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]