Political News

World leaders believe ‘it’s pointless’ trying to show unity with Trump at G7

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After they wooed him in Taormina, Italy, in 2017, Donald Trump snubbed world leaders by dropping out of the Paris climate accords.

When they reached consensus in Charlevoix, Canada, a year later, Mr Trump abruptly refused to sign their joint statement and escalated his trade war with personal insults.

And as the Nato allies gathered in Brussels last summer, summit organisers avoided another Trumpian eruption only by prewriting the meeting’s formal policy agreement and keeping it from the American president until the last minute.

Now, as French president Emmanuel Macron prepares to host Mr Trump and leaders from some of the world’s leading democracies in the south of France this weekend, the United States’ closest allies have all but given up on the idea that the Group of 7 summit will produce the kind of unity and consensus about global issues that has been its hallmark for more than four decades.

“I know the points of disagreement with the US,” Mr Macron lamented to reporters earlier this week as he acknowledged that the group would not even try to issue its usual joint statement, known as a communiqué. “It’s pointless.”

With the world facing ominous signs of a global economic slowdown and vexing political turbulence in hot spots around the world, Mr Trump will arrive on Saturday morning in Biarritz, France, with a blunt tariff club in his hand. And that poses a challenge to America’s trading partners.

“Their operating strategy is damage limitation,” said Charles Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University who served on the National Security Council staff during President Barack Obama’s tenure.

“The first G7. The second G7. The Nato summit. Trump has basically blown them all up. I’m guessing that Macron is hoping to get out of Biarritz with no blood on the floor.”

He added: “If you go in with low expectations and no communiqué, that lowers the risk of a fiasco. You have a nice chat, you have some good wine, and you go home.”

The leaders of France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States will meet at the beachfront resort town amid escalating alarms over the health of the global economy, which is slumping under the weight of Mr Trump’s multi-front trade wars.

In the decades after World War II, such a slowdown typically spurred American presidents to help lead a global response to prevent or mitigate recessions.

But Mr Trump’s willingness to use tariffs as leverage over allies as well as adversaries has severely strained the relationships with other leaders.

On the day he was to leave Washington for the summit, Mr Trump significantly escalated his tariff war, responding to China’s retaliation with another increase in his own levies on Chinese goods.

“China should not have put new tariffs on £75bn of United States product (politically motivated!),” the US president tweeted.

Trump says ‘Tianenmen Square’ violence in Hong Kong could harm China trade deal

Meanwhile, his disdain for multilateral institutions like the United Nations, Nato and the World Trade Organisation has undermined the expectation of cooperation and collaboration in any combined effort to confront China or other countries.

“The post-war world, which the US built, was essentially one where, if there was a theme, it was: ‘everyone benefits from everyone else’s growth’,” said Raghuram Rajan, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, who once led India’s central bank. “It’s a positive-sum game. The idea was to help everyone grow through a rules-based system.

“What’s changed,” Mr Rajan said, “is the view that the growth of others is actually good for the US. There’s much more of a zero-sum rhetoric: ‘if they grow, it’s at my expense’.”

Despite the warnings of difficult headwinds, Mr Trump continues to insist that the US economy has nothing to worry about.

In a tweet on Friday morning, he wrote that “the Fake News Media, together with their partner, the Democrat Party, are working overtime to convince people that we are in, or will soon be going into, a recession.”

American officials say Mr Trump is eager to contrast the economic success of his policies with those in slumping economies like Germany and France during a session that he called for on the global economy on Sunday morning. But his fellow world leaders are not expected to hold back either.

“I think he will get an earful from the others,” said Peter Westmacott, a former ambassador to the United States from Britain. “There will be a sense that Trump’s trade policies are part of what is taking the world’s economy in the wrong direction.”

Mr Macron, as this year’s host of the G7 gathering, is not counting on the United States to be a constructive part of other discussions.

He has invited several leaders from African nations to be part of sessions on the challenges facing that continent.

‘I wouldn’t want to get into it’ Donald Trump dodges simple question about the bible

The leaders of India, Australia, Chile and Spain will participate in conversations about the environment, terrorism, nuclear weapons and other issues.

French officials conceded that there is no hope that Mr Trump joins the group in expressing its concern about climate change despite news that fires in the Amazon rainforest could accelerate the planet’s environmental crisis.

A few seemingly anodyne statements that diplomats from the seven countries prepared in advance will be released at the end of the summit, an EU official said, among them a document on the partnership between African nations and the G7 countries and one on biodiversity.

For his part, Mr Trump has already vented his frustration about France’s imposition of a tax on companies like Facebook. He called it “foolishness” and risked insulting the G-7 host by threatening tariffs on French goods, including wine, in response. 

Beyond trade, disagreements about how to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain stark.

“Rather than being defined by ambition, they seem to be more about survival and just getting through it,” said Derek Chollet, executive vice president for security and defence policy at the German Marshall Fund. “They have seen the movie before. They don’t want to repeat it.”

That may be difficult, in part because of the presence of another larger-than-life personality: Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson poses with foot on table at Elysee Palace

Mr Johnson and Mr Trump are temperamental allies, and the American president sees an opportunity for a bilateral trade deal with Britain if Mr Johnson succeeds in breaking his country away from the European Union.

The result could be what Mr Chollet called “a bad buddy movie” with Mr Johnson and Mr Trump together sticking it to their colleagues.

But Mr Johnson may also have reason to keep his distance from Mr Trump — the US president’s deep unpopularity in Britain.

Mr Westmacott said that the G7 still provided an opportunity for some of the world’s most important leaders to discuss serious problems facing their countries — if Mr Trump and Mr Johnson decided to let that happen.

“It should be a moment when there are frank discussions,” he said. “The question is really whether those two narcissistic, self-absorbed individuals actually want to operate in a collegial way and work with other heads of government to make progress on the difficult issues. 

“So far the jury is out.”

The New York Times

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Political News

Donald Tusk launches scathing attack on Trump and Johnson as world leaders arrive at G7

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European Council president Donald Tusk launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump and Boris Johnson as world leaders gathered in the French resort of Biarritz for the G7 summit

Condemning The US president’s calls for Russia to rejoin the G7, Mr Tusk implied they were motivated by “business calculation”.  

He went on to warn Mr Johnson that the EU “will not cooperate” on a no-deal Brexit.

Ahead of Mr Johnson’s arrival at his first international summit, Mr Tusk suggested he could “go down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’”, denigrating him as “the third British Conservative prime minister with whom I will discuss Brexit”.

Mr Johnson is expected to set out his plans for Brexit in talks with Mr Tusk, building on visits in recent days to the leaders of Germany and France.

Mr Tusk said: “We are willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states including Ireland, if and when the UK government is ready to put them on the table.

“The EU was always open to co-operation when David Cameron wanted to avoid Brexit, when Theresa May wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit and we will also be ready now to hold serious talks with Prime Minister Johnson. “One thing I will not co-operate on is no deal. I still hope that Prime Minster Johnson will not like to go down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’.”

The PM plans to use the gathering to push his vision of a post-Brexit UK as an “international, outward-looking, self-confident” country.

It will be his first face-to-face meeting with the US president since entering Downing Street, and in pursuit of a trans-Atlantic trade deal will likely be seeking to appease Mr Trump, who is set to receive a frosty reception. 

Mr Trump has previously been uncompromising at such meetings, particularly on climate change and the environment, which French president Emmanuel Macron has pushed to the top of the agenda in response to fires and deforestation currently devastating the Amazon rainforest.

The Biarritz summit already looks set for conflict. Mr Trump struck back at French president Emmanuel Macron’s tax on US technology firms, threatening retaliatory taxes on French wine.

Mr Trump is also currently floating the idea of putting tariffs on EU goods, while his trade war with China escalates.

A former US ambassador told The New York Times on Friday he expected Mr Trump “would get an earful from the others” as a result of the damage to the world economy.

Mr Tusk reinforced this message on Saturday morning, warning Mr Trump’s use of tariffs “as a political instrument” could push the global economy into recession.

Yet the absence of one unlikely Trump ally still casts a shadow over the meeting. 

Boris Johnson on the Amazon fires

Mr Trump renewed calls this week for Russia to be returned its seat back at the G7, citing an alternative history of its 2014 departure that ignored the annexation of Crimea and blamed his predecessor Barack Obama.

At 2017’s G7 meeting in Canada, he suggested Russia’s actions had been partly justified.

“Under no condition can we agree with this logic,” Mr Tusk said on Saturday, saying the reasons for Russia’s exclusion “are still valid”.

“When Russia was invited to the G7 the first time, it was believed that it would pursue the path of liberal democracy, rule of law and human rights,” he said. “Is there anyone among us who can say with full conviction, not out of business calculation, that Russia is on that path?”

He added that he wished instead to invite Ukraine, as a guest, to the next G7 summit, and warned of the meeting’s importance in the face of increasingly fractured global ties.

“This may be the last moment to restore our political community,” he said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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Political News

How the protests in Hong Kong are affecting these five residents’ lives

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They traded school uniforms for black T-shirts and face masks. They lied to their employers for a day off. Babysitters watched young children while the parents were away at protests. Across Hong Kong, otherwise average lives have been transformed by a wave of dissent against Beijing’s increasing influence over the former British colony.

The spark for the demonstrations was a proposal to allow extraditions to China. But they reignited fears that Hong Kong will lose its relative autonomy – a promise under the “one country, two systems” framework – if they do not take a stand. Their movement has been deliberately leaderless. That is partly to avoid prosecution, but also to empower all. Strategies are debated on messaging boards, protest routes are planned on secure apps.

The demonstrators draw on the echoes of their generation: Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 for the older ones, the Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong in 2014 for those who are younger. They all, however, see this fight as one that will define Hong Kong for years to come.

The mother, 44

Gloria Kwong’s political awakening came when she watched television broadcasts of tanks rolling down the streets of Beijing, crushing the student uprising in Tiananmen Square.

“I was only in secondary school, like the age of the young people on the streets today,” Kwong, 44, says. “My eyes were opened.”

After the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, she watched with fear as Chinese influence crept into her city. In 2012, Kwong was among a group of parents opposing a “national education” proposal to promote Chinese communism and denounce western democracy. Protests forced authorities to back down. She found herself rushing to the protests and campaign meetings while still breast-feeding her second child.

“There are so many examples telling me that, as a mother, I need to stand up for my children, especially when they are so young and don’t have a voice,” she says.

Last month, after police teargassed and shot projectiles at protesters surrounding the legislative building, Kwong and her friends discussed what they could do.

“We thought: if there was a more mature adult, standing among them, will the police still dare to do this?” she says.

Then came Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s comments that same night, when she compared protesters to her own sons and said she could not indulge “wayward behaviour”. Kwong and others had enough. They organised the first of two mothers’ rallies. The second had around 8,000 people. People have likened their efforts to the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of Chinese activists who lost children in the 1989 protests and have dedicated their lives to pushing for democracy. Kwong feels uncomfortable about the comparison.

“I want to do what I can do now, so we don’t become Tiananmen mothers later,” she says.

King Chan and his mother, Jenny, share similar political views

The family, 28 and 61

Jenny Chan and her 28-year-old son, King, share a small two-bedroom apartment in Tuen Mun, a suburb of Hong Kong far from the city’s iconic harbourfront skyline. They also share political views, a rarity as generations often find themselves bitterly divided in their responses to upheavals. The young have been mostly on the forefront of some of the most radical moves – particularly the storming of Hong Kong’s legislature on 2 July. Some protesters have returned home to parents who have tried to punish them, ground them or kick them out of their homes. Jenny – acknowledging that, at 61, she is past her prime to be on the front lines – is still there in spirit.

“I am not brave enough to be breaking into buildings,” she says. “But we all have our own way to speak up.”

She watched her son don his helmet and mask before he rushed out on the night the legislative building was occupied.

“Some people here only want to protect their money or power,” she says fiercely. “I have always taught my son what my mother taught me: that we must raise our voice if we see any injustice and speak out for what is fair.”

The unforgiving economics of Hong Kong life are never far from politics. Their family once lived in a large village home, its 2,000 square feet offering King and his brother ample space to grow up. Then rents were raised until it was no longer affordable. Jenny and her son are still renting, but this time just 400 square feet.

“If we look around, we see this huge gap in wealth, and there are no longer opportunities to work hard and be successful,” she says.

King is more stark.

“If I try to think of my future, all I see is none, no future at all,” he says. “I cannot imagine moving out. I cannot imagine owning a home. I cannot imagine building a life. All I can think is, in 30 or 40 years, it will be even worse because we won’t even have our freedoms.”

The student, 16

With a box of chocolate biscuit sticks in her hands and a chequered school dress, it is hard to imagine Gigi battling riot police in the street. Yet there she was: wearing a black face mask and standing behind a cluster of metal barricades on 12 June, when protesters surrounded the Legislative Council building. She heard what sounded like an explosion. Someone thrust a pair of goggles into her hands. Then she felt it for the first time: the teargas that burned her skin and clouded her vision.

Back home that evening, she was silent during dinner with her parents. She didn’t want them to worry. They quarrelled the night before after attending a memorial for a young woman who had died by suicide and linked it to the extradition bill in her goodbye note.

“I wasn’t out hanging out with my friends or watching a movie,” she says, fighting back tears. She couldn’t understand why her parents – who took her to her first political rally in 2012, over the suspicious death of a Chinese dissident – were arguing rather than offering condolences.

That rally, she says, was a “turning point.” After that, she stopped being proud to call herself Chinese. Two years later, during the 79-day occupation of Hong Kong’s streets demanding a direct vote for Hong Kong officials, Gigi ferried supplies back and forth to those camped out on the roads. Though isolated among her friends, who are losing interest in the demonstrations, she says she cannot focus on anything but the protests. So the tiny 16-year-old, just over 5ft tall and weighing 90lbs, has gone by herself to recent rallies.

“After being teargassed, I was no longer afraid,” she says. “I understand that police may settle old scores later, but there is nothing else I can do.”

Louis continues to live with his parents, sharing a room with siblings

The civil servant, 28

Louis, an immigration official, has manned various border crossings into Hong Kong: the airport, ferry terminal and overland routes from the mainland. This gave him a close-up view into what he sees as among the biggest threats facing his home: an incursion of long-term Chinese residents into Hong Kong, under a scheme that allows 150 per day to arrive on “one-way” permits.

“We have no choice in who these people are,” says Louis, who gave only his nickname to avoid possible reprisals from his bosses or authorities. “This is a policy that is very good for China, for them to brainwash Hong Kong by letting these people come here and spread their ideologies.”

Almost one million Chinese had arrived through this scheme by the end of 2016, a sizeable chunk of Hong Kong’s roughly 7.3 million people. They’ve served to reinforce a view in Hong Kong that the government is not concerned with the myriad issues locals face – sky-high rents, wages that cannot keep up – but work to please Beijing. Louis himself continues to live with his parents, sharing a room with siblings. His salary of $3,000 a month is decent, but makes any other option impossible. He applied for his own place through a public housing scheme when he was 18, and got a notification just last year informing him that he finally got a unit. By then, he was over the maximum income.

“If we are looking to take the next step in life, we need money, housing,” he says. “But these are not things we can imagine having.”

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On the streets, he takes extra caution – never on the frontlines, always with a mask – fully aware he needs his job. He runs into colleagues often. They give him a knowing look. They know the risk. One colleague was stopped and searched during protests in 2014. The officer who found his government ID immediately called his supervisor. He was not fired but received a “black mark” that probably stalled his career.

Louis is celebrating his own small victory: getting his cautious mother out to a march for the first time on 16 June.

“It totally changed her mind,” he says. “She now realises that there is abuse of power all around, from the government to the police.”

© The Washington Post 

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