PARIS — Another G7 summit blown apart by Donald Trump? Not on Emmanuel Macron’s watch.
Last year’s gathering of G7 leaders ended in chaos after Trump abruptly announced via Twitter that he would not support the just-agreed summit communiqué, apparently out of anger over comments made by the host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The French president is determined not to let his American counterpart steal the show this year in the beach town of Biarritz in southwest France so he has come up with a cunning plan: There will be no communiqué.
But that doesn’t mean Macron lacks ambition when it comes to the summit, which will run from Saturday to Monday.
As Macron expounded in a two-and-a-half-hour briefing for reporters on Wednesday night, he views the gathering as a key moment in his drive to save what he sees as an endangered multilateral liberal world order.
He will have his work cut out, and not just when it comes to trying to keep Trump and the other leaders even vaguely on the same page. The summit takes place at a time of multiple crises around the world.
Trump is engaged in feuds on multiple fronts — from a trade war with China to a bizarre battle with Denmark over the idea of buying Greenland. New U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is immersed in battles at home and abroad over Brexit. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will likely attend the summit after his government collapsed. Angela Merkel is facing a weakening German economy.
And that’s without even getting into the deep international disagreements over issues as diverse as Iran and climate change.
In his marathon briefing, Macron declared that France has a “particular responsibility” in a pivotal reshaping of the global liberal order. Otherwise, “Europe is at risk of fading … and losing its sovereignty,” or worse — “becoming vassals.”
Here are some of the key points in Macron’s strategy for handling the G7.
Though Macron conceded he and the U.S. president “don’t think the same thing about the global order, we don’t have the same objectives,” (which are pretty fundamental disagreements), he highlighted that “President Trump hasn’t been to any country as often as he has been to France. The G7 will be his fourth visit since the beginning of my term, [this] is useful to coordinate things because otherwise, divergences grow.”
And while Macron is aware that “with President Trump, when it’s a campaign promise, you can’t convince him otherwise,” as was the case with the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and waging a trade war with China, all of which have had destabilizing effects on Europe, he chose to focus on when they’ve “been able to achieve real things together.” As examples he cited convincing Trump not to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria and the U.S. president’s decision to carry out joint airstrikes in Syria in 2018 with the U.K. and France in response to a reported chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government.
No backing down on Brexit
Macron, who is having a working lunch with Johnson in Paris on Thursday, didn’t mince his words on the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
“A hard Brexit … will be the responsibility of the British government,” he said.
“It was the British people who decided on Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” Macron continued.
He said a renegotiation of the Brexit deal to remove the Irish border backstop provision, as suggested this week by Johnson, “is not an option … because what Johnson suggests in the letter he sent … is to choose between the integrity of the European market and the respect of the Good Friday Agreement. We wouldn’t choose between these two.”
And as for the much-vaunted trade deal the U.K. would make with the U.S., Macron argued it will not compensate for the cost of Brexit, and would come at “the cost of a historic vassalization.”
“I don’t think it’s the will of the British people … to become the junior partner of the U.S.”
A day after the White House claimed Macron suggested that Trump invite Russia to the G7 next year, Macron rebuffed that claim.
He said major progress in the conflict in Ukraine would have to be found before Moscow could be welcomed back into the fold.
“It’s pertinent that, eventually, Russia be able to return to the G8 but … the indispensable preliminary condition … is that a solution be found, in connection with Ukraine, on the basis of the Minsk Agreement to resolve the issue,” he said.
He went further, in what could have been a dig at Trump, who has expressed support for reinstating Russia to the G8, apparently without conditions.
“I think saying that Russia can return to the table without any conditions is enacting the weakness of the G7,” he said. “It would be a strategic mistake and a profound injustice.”
Nevertheless, Macron said he is cautiously optimistic that conditions can be met to hold a summit in the coming weeks in Paris between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany to negotiate the end to the conflict in Ukraine.
“We can go forward on an exchange of prisoners, I had a long conversation with [Vladimir Putin] on this and he is ready, we can move forward on the Donbass [region], on demilitarization,” he said. “The [Russian and Ukrainian] presidents seem ready to go forward.”
Doubling down on tech tax
Macron said it was a “crazy” system that allows giant companies like Google or Facebook to avoid paying taxes in countries where they operate, giving them access to a “constant tax haven.”
But he stressed that the 3 percent digital tax he spearheaded — adopted by nine other European countries after failing to get it adopted on the EU level — did not exclusively target American companies, but rather companies with a certain level of revenue.
The tax drew Trump’s ire, and prompted him to threaten to impose a 100 percent tax on French wine. But Macron pointed out that Trump’s treasury secretary had, along with other G7 finance ministers, signed on last month to the principle of tech companies being taxed in the countries where they make money.
Macron is standing firm on the issue, even if Trump says his European allies blame the French leader when they get criticized for the measure.
“That’s what President Trump told me last night — ‘they all say it’s you,'” Macron recalled. “OK, well I own it.”