Between the 24th and 26th of August, G7 leaders met in the French seaside town of Biarritz to discuss current global challenges, such as Iran, trade issues, the fight against inequality and climate change. Despite the fact that expectations for any significant breakthroughs were limited to say the least, the 45th summit between the heads of the seven most advanced economies in the world ended in quite a different atmosphere compared to its commencement last Friday.
The tone was set by the hosting nation in the form of French President Emmanuel Macron, particularly in response to two of the most controversial issues for his American counterpart: Iran and global trade. In a surprise move, Macron met with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the summit, preparing the ground for a meeting between the Iranian President Rouhani and President Trump in the coming weeks. This was a potentially game-changing moment since the United States’ departure from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018.
Macron and Trump were also the protagonists on the trade front. During the closing press conference on Monday, the French President announced the conclusion of an agreement on the taxation of American tech giants in France, an enduring topic of friction that resulted in US threats to return the favour with tariffs on French wines. This seems to have opened the appetite for the re-opening of the wider EU-US trade talks, as both German Chancellor Merkel and President Trump noted that a deal is still possible, despite the current suspension of official talks.
Apart from the aforementioned global issues, regional developments received their fair share of attention. While the enthusiastic inaugural appearance of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson might not have succeeded in easing concerns over the upcoming Brexit deadline in October, it has nevertheless provided reassurance about the UK’s alignment with his European colleagues on global cooperation and foreign policy issues.
The ecological disaster taking place during the last couple of weeks in the Amazon also fell under the G7’s spotlight, before turning rapidly into a personal dispute between President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and his French counterpart. Leaders agreed on a $20 million aid package to help Brazil and its neighbours fight against the rainforest fires, with the Brazilian government seemingly set to reject the offer.
Since President Trump’s inauguration in 2016, the American positions were usually to be found on the other side of the table compared to the remaining G7 countries on issues such as Iran, trade and climate change. This summit seems to have closed with a different dynamic though, as President Trump appears willing to give way to diplomacy, going as far as suggesting that a trade deal with China is possible and inviting Russia back to a re-established G8.
Given, however, the distance between Donald Trump’s words and actions, it remains to be seen whether this sunny weekend in southern France will go down in history as a success. Perhaps the acquired impression of a restored unity among the world’s largest democracies is enough to create a positive momentum in view of the coming challenging times.