- It’s not unusual for President Donald Trump to spread falsehoods. But his performance at the G7 summit over the weekend shows that when it comes to his standing on the global stage, Trump lives in a different reality.
- Throughout the weekend, Trump made a number of misleading claims about key issues and his relationships with other world leaders. His actions also show how the US is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the developed world.
- Trump claimed his trade war with China is popular within the G7 (it’s not), he touted the overall state of the US economy (experts warn it could be headed toward recession), and he said other G7 members support his call to invite Russia back into the alliance (they don’t).
- He also supported North Korea over South Korea, gushed about France’s handling of the summit even as his own aides privately fumed about it, and skipped a critical meeting to address climate change and the Amazon wildfires.
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But his performance and statements during this year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, France, show that when it comes to his standing on the global stage, the US president lives in an entirely different world.
Here are just a few key issues discussed at the annual meeting where Trump’s version of events doesn’t align with reality:
- His claim that his trade war with China is popular within the G7; it’s not.
- The “great” state of the US economy; experts warn it may tip into a recession, in part because of Trump’s trade war.
- Whether Russia should be readmitted to the alliance; only Trump and the outgoing Italian prime minister support this.
- North Korea’s increasingly aggressive posturing; Trump downplayed North Korea’s seventh missile test in a month despite Japan’s concerns.
- His interactions with French President Emmanuel Macron and France’s handling of the summit.
Trump was already on a rocky start heading into the G7 meeting on Friday, when he and China got into another tit-for-tat in the escalating trade war.
China announced that day that it would impose tariffs on $US75 billion of US goods, and Trump responded by saying the US would hike tariffs on $US250 billion worth of Chinese goods from 25% to 30% starting October 1. He also tweeted out a directive for US companies to stop doing business in China.
By Trump’s account, the move projected power and showed the world that the US wouldn’t be taken for a ride.
In actuality, the president’s actions left key US allies unnerved. In one instance, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters he would like to see “trade peace” with China.
After praising the US economy, Johnson said, “Just to register the faint, sheeplike note of our view on the trade war, we’re in favour of trade peace on the whole, and dialling it down if we can.”
“We don’t like tariffs on the whole,” Johnson added, as he sat across from Trump.
The same day, Trump insisted that the US’s “great Economy is the talk of everyone!”
His assertion came amid fears that the US economy is about to slip into a recession. Trump has downplayed those fears and claims, without evidence, that they’re being pushed as part of a conspiracy against him by the “Fake and Disgusting News.”
“Well, we are having very good meetings, the Leaders are getting along very well, and our Country, economically, is doing great – the talk of the world!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
Trump sides with Russia and North Korea (again) over US allies
The president also disputed claims that his relationships with the other six members of the G7 are tense and that the two days of meetings over the weekend were a disaster for the US.
But multiple accounts of the summit show that the US is growing more and more isolated on the global stage.
At no point was that more clear than when Trump aggressively lobbied to have Russia readmitted to the G7. The president said on Sunday that the effort was a “work in progress,” adding that “we have a number of people that would like to see Russia back.” He refused to say who else supported the idea.
But The Guardian reported that Trump’s stance on the issue led to a heated exchange at a dinner on Saturday. Citing diplomatic sources, the report said Trump vehemently argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be invited back, five years after Russia was expelled from the alliance.
Most others at the dinner – Johnson, Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and European Council President Donald Tusk – immediately rejected the suggestion, The Guardian reported. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was apparently neutral, and only outgoing Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed any support.
One European diplomat told the outlet that the issue represented a “fundamental difference” between Trump and the other G7 leaders: They firmly believe the group should consist of liberal democracies, whereas Trump believes Russia should be included because it can help out on issues like Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
(Fact check: Russia is a staunch ally of Syria’s Assad regime, and it’s also cozied up to Iran in recent years. US military and intelligence officials believe Russia is generally adversarial to US interests in the region.)
Nonetheless, speaking with reporters about the issue during the summit, Trump said of Russia, “My inclination is to say, yes, they should be in [the G7].” He went on to criticise former President Barack Obama, who he said was “embarrassed” and “outsmarted” by Putin.
(Russia was ejected from the G8 five years ago after it annexed the territory of Crimea from Ukraine, which is a violation of international law.)
Trump also faced pushback when it came to North Korea. The Atlantic reported that when Trump met with Abe, the US president said he disapproved of North Korea’s missile tests but touted the “very nice letter” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent him last week. Trump suggested Kim was justified in being upset about South Korea’s “war games” and that North Korea hadn’t violated any agreement, according to The Atlantic.
(It fired its seventh missile test in about a month on Saturday.)
But Abe firmly pushed back, telling Trump that North Korea’s latest missile test “clearly violates the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
Trump publicly praises Macron while Trump’s aides privately slam the French president
Meanwhile, throughout the course of the summit, Trump repeatedly gushed about his interactions with Macron, tweeting that he did “a really great job thus far with a very important G-7. Lunch with Emmanuel was the best meeting we have yet had. Likewise, evening meeting with World Leaders went very well. Progress being made!
But Trump’s aides privately fumed about how Macron handled the summit, according to multiple media reports.
Bloomberg News reported that US officials privately accused Macron of trying to isolate Trump by focusing much of the discussions on climate change, another topic over which Trump is at odds with his fellow world leaders. US officials told Bloomberg they believed the French were trying to embarrass Trump on the issue, though a French official told the outlet that ignoring climate change was not an option.
The Americans, on the other hand, had anticipated focusing more on national security and an economic slowdown.
Indeed, the divide between Trump and the rest of the developed world on climate change was put on display Monday, when the US president was conspicuously absent from a key meeting about the issue that included the rest of the G7 alliance and other world leaders despite being scheduled to attend.
“This was a very special, very unified two and a half days,” Trump said later on Monday.
But as is often the case, the results painted a different picture.
G7 members agreed to endorse just a one-page document of issues, and the summit ended with little progress on any of the most significant issues the world faces, like Iran, global warming, and trade.
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