Biggest threat to world order comes from within G7
Cantillon: Trump’s belligerence will ensure this weekend’s summit is no cosy tea party
US president Donald Trump speaks at the White House on Friday before leaving for the G7 Summit in Canada. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
G7 summits typically follow a set format. The leaders of the world’s richest countries are shepherded about in black limos while protestors, penned in behind crash barriers by riot police, shout anti-establishment slogans.
On occasion the uneasy stand-off breaks down into a pitched battle between protestors and police, a spectacle that neatly captures the forlorn cause of one side and the entrenched position of the other.
But what happens when the biggest threat to world order comes from within the G7 itself, in the form of the US president? Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policy has inflamed tensions across the world and threatens to turn this weekend’s meeting in Canada into a rather ill-tempered affair rather than a cosy tea party for rich elites.
While French president Emmanuel Macron has mooted the idea of a G6 without the US, Trump seems to thrive on this type of censure. Setting himself up as the refusnik who won’t play ball with establishment sits well with his “drain the swamp” routine and certainly won’t alienate him from his voter base.
To suggest he’ll be in any way perturbed by the frosty reception he’s likely to receive is to misread the New York property mogul. While his policy might be difficult to predict, his tactic has always been to punch first and negotiate later.
Macron and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau have, against the odds, struck up a personal rapport with the US leader, in contrast to Britain’s Theresa May, but they’ve singularly failed to get to him to change tack when it mattered. He pulled out of the Iran deal, much to the consternation of France and other EU states, right after Macron’s recent state visit, while Trudeau’s softly-softly approach to trade talks and the threat of tariffs backfired spectacularly last week.
There’s talk of the G6 standing up to Trump, but it’s unlikely given the power the US still wields in international affairs and the EU’s long-standing policy of placating rather than antagonising US leaders.