Macron hopes to convince G7 leaders to halt trade war and heal divisions

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said he hoped to convince world leaders to pull back from a trade war and heal growing divisions at the G7 summit in Biarritz, before sitting down to an impromptu ocean-front lunch alone with Donald Trump in order to smooth relations.

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The US president arrived for the summit amid a stormy build-up with growing tension between Washington and China on trade, the crisis of the Amazon forest fires and increasing concern over dealings with Iran. Clouds were also gathering over a potential spat with the EU over digital tax after Trump said he could decide to retaliate for France raising a levy on web companies such as Google by taxing French wines “like they’ve never seen before”.

Macron had not been expected to have lunch alone with Trump, but after bumping into the US leader and his wife, Melania, in a hotel lobby shortly after they landed from Bordeaux airport by helicopter, he offered Trump a meal on an ocean-front terrace in order to prepare some of the summit’s thorniest issues. These included the war in Syria, the Iran nuclear treaty, tension in Ukraine, the Amazon forest fires, the climate emergency and trade wars.

The leaders sat down at a table adorned with flowers, with Macron saying their priority was to discuss the stand-off with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapon ambitions, with “strong coordination” and “hard work” needed by both of them.

Trump at first appeared to be sitting arms crossed and frosty, but went on to praise his host and the beauty of the French coastal resort of Biarritz.

“We actually have a lot in common,” Trump said across the table to Macron, adding that they had “been friends for a long time”. Trump admitted that at times he and Macron “go at each other a little bit” but said they had a “special relationship”.

He added: “So far, so good. The weather is perfect. Everybody’s getting along. I think we will accomplish a lot this weekend.”

The issue of how to bring Trump on board, when he is in the midst of electioneering for his voter-base at home, is a main concern among G7 diplomats. Macron had already scrapped the idea of a joint statement at the end of the summit, after Trump pulled out of the last joint statement last year in Canada, withdrawing his signature in a fury at the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

Macron has acknowledged his differences with Trump on the climate emergency, but still hopes to find consensus on other issues and could give a joint press conference with the US president at the end of the summit.

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“I want to convince all our partners that tensions, and trade tensions in particular are bad for everybody,” Macron told the French in a televised address before the summit began, warning of the destabilisation of economic growth around the world amid mounting tariff wars between Washington and Beijing.

He added: “We must succeed in reaching a de-escalation, stabilise things and avoid this trade war which is already taking place everywhere.”

Macron said G7 countries should also engage in economic stimulus to prevent world economies from falling into recession.

“We must find new ways to launch real stimulus, stimulate growth,” he said, pointing at rock-bottom interest rates which he said should spur countries with budgetary room for manoeuvre to invest in education and job-creating initiatives.

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