While climate change is challenging the sustainability of human society and most institutions established after 1945 are being tested, the "most developed nations summit" was held in Biarritz, France. The participation of Russia, which would have turned the summit into a G8 gathering, was blocked by the U.S., despite French President Emmanuel Macron's insistence. The choice of Biarritz, the most-prized holiday resort for European nobility in the 19th century where all the crowned heads of Europe would parade, especially at the immense casino to be "à la mode," is to say the least, surprising. More surprising is the role France's Macron wants to play in the international arena. He wants to mediate between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir problem; he would like to solve the Iranian problem by mediating between the Islamic Republic and the United States.
Also, he wants to play the tough guy in Cyprus against Turkey; he is in the forefront against forest fires in the Amazon jungle; he proposed a speed limit for vessels in sea transportation; he showed the door to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who wants another negotiation round for the Brexit; basically, he wants to do everything at once.
Obviously, such a perspective goes way beyond France's capacities to influence international developments, even if it enjoys – sporadic – German support. However, what Macron is trying to do cannot be seen as the personal ambition of a young, gifted politician. He personalizes the most visible example of another way of doing politics against a panel of terribly dangerous populist politicians, starting with U.S. President Donald Trump, and encompassing more and more candidates, like Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, among others.
The summit in Biarritz saw a surprising last-minute invitee, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, whose plane landed in France, where he then held a three-hour meeting with his French counterpart, with the brief participation of Macron in person. However, Zarif did not meet with any other G7 leader, and Trump ostensibly ignored his presence.
Speaking of Trump, he represents practically all the dangers and developments the other countries of the G7 dread. He plays almost daily with fire by continuously challenging China concerning trade regulations. Marc Fiorentino concisely explained in his very interesting blog Monfinancier why Trump is being so aggressive about trade wars.
Trump did not seriously envisage being elected president. His ambition was to be a vocal contender against Hillary Clinton and after a probable defeat against her, to remain as a spokesperson of American neoconservatives. With his ability to market anything, he would probably have made a juicy business out of his defeat. Against all odds, he was elected, without any preparation for his presidency. The waffling of his difficult-to-understand politics, his back-and-forth moves on almost every issue and the terribly high turnover in his top team at the helm of the federal government are eloquent enough examples of his unpreparedness.
Now that he is in the third year of his presidency, he wants to be reelected, badly. For that to happen, he needs three major positive developments: High growth – at least 2% yearly, low unemployment and a stock exchange in good shape, because American pension funds are all in the stock market. He thus needs low interest rates and increased U.S. domestic production. His insistence on trying to pick a fight with China on every occasion is the backbone of his strategy. He also almost daily insults, through tweets, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jay Powell, to put growing pressure on him to lower interest rates. His tactic might be successful in the short term, by seeing the markets go down, due to his insistence on running down China; then the Federal Reserve will have to decrease the rates and the markets will go up, which will more or less coincide with the election period in the U.S.
This very dangerous game could alter world growth. Whether world growth will considerably resume is altogether another story. Anyhow, by totally shifting international commercial relations for short-term gains, the U.S. administration is "cutting off the branch we are all sitting on," to paraphrase an old Turkish idiom.
The G7 summit did not find and could obviously not find any real solutions to all the issues involved, but some modest steps have been taken. All the leaders, with different intonations, have asked Trump to be very cautious in challenging free international trade; though he probably did not even listen to them. Nevertheless, the summit has clearly shown that with Trump as president, global problems are light years away from seeing the semblance of a solution.
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