G7: A serious setback hardly avoided in iconic Biarritz

The coastal city of Biarritz in southwestern France (photo from https://www.elysee.fr/en/g7/2019/01/01/biarritz-summit)

The G7 yearly summits are supposed to strengthen the unity of the world’s wealthiest democracies vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Not anymore, many say, but this time there is one important exception: Iran. The leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and of course the US, met during the weekend in the coastal city of Biarritz in southwestern France. They made it clear they had largely diverging national agendas.

However, they agreed to authorize the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to start talking with Iran on their behalf, making sure this country doesn’t possess nuclear arms. The presence of Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif in Biarritz on Sunday after the invitation of Macron, though, risked derailing this G7 consensus. Reuters reported that Trump said “while he was happy for Paris to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives”.

More tariffs

In any case, it’s important to note that the American President, only hours before departing for Biarritz, set the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans ablaze. He vividly rejected proposals for less aggressive action in international trade. Just before boarding the plane to France, Trump increased the tariffs on the Chinese imports by another 5%, intentionally undermining the ongoing trade negotiations between the two largest economies of the world.

Trump didn’t spare France either. According to Reuters, “Trump threatened his host on the eve of the summit, saying the United States would tax French wine ‘like they’ve never seen before’ unless Paris dropped a digital tax on U.S. technology companies”. He also rejected calls for effective action on climate. Interestingly enough, the Europeans, despite the Brexit time bomb, were more or less united on trade, Iran and climate. The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, didn’t join Trump in a feared G5+2 division. But let’s dig a bit deeper into Trump’s undermining of the Atlantic unity.

Unstoppable Trump

Now, more than ever, Donald Trump is unstoppable on his track to win the November 2020 Presidential election. In that undertaking he doesn’t mind if he gravely hurts its own country or the entire world, for as long as he believes he expresses the crudest instincts of that part of the population which brought him to the White House in the first place. Early last Friday he abruptly increased the tariffs on Chinese imports by another 5%.

On top of that, he actually ‘ordered’ the American companies doing business in China to abandon this country. No matter that the US Chamber of Commerce was flabbergasted but reacted intentionally and diplomatically. Its vice President, Myron Brilliant, said “We do not want to see a further deterioration of U.S.-China relations.” Then, he asked for “continued, constructive engagement”, in the trade negotiations with Beijing. The ACC traditionally represents the interests of the immense US business sector.

The enemies of America

Also, last Friday, Trump spoke about the two ‘enemies’ of America. Without remorse he said Jerome Powell, the President of the American central bank, the Fed is an ‘enemy’ of the US. In a recent speech, Powell fell short of promising a generous cut of interest rates, as Trumps has repeatedly asked him to do so. The US President thinks that a large drop of dollar interest rates will expand his electoral chances next year.

He doesn’t mind if this could lead in the longer term to a new and more devastating financial crisis. Neither does the White House tenant care if the Fed is institutionally independent therefore making it impossible for him to fire Powell. No need to mention that according to Trump, the other ‘enemy’ of US is the Chinese President, XI Jinping.

Trumpism in Europe

Trump’s recklessness and indifference about the legality and constitutionality of his actions seem to have crossed the Atlantic and constitute the main political plan of his followers in Europe. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the extreme right wing Italian political formation Lega, didn’t hesitate to bring down the government, just because his party’s electoral appeal is increasing.

The same is true for the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He is indifferent as regards the wellbeing of his country which will be undermined with a no-deal Brexit, if such a stance can secure him an electoral win. Apart from that, Boris seriously contemplates to ‘shut down’ Parliament in September, in order to prevent the MPs from voting a new deferment of the Brexit date beyond 31 October.

Unfortunately, it seems that the new arrivals in the western political elite are unprincipled, with no remorse whatsoever in their thirst for power. And this happens in a political environment which during the past decades has been reeking.

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