Bromance blooms between Macron and Trudeau in Italy

Mr Emmanuel Macron (left) held a bilateral meeting with Mr Justin Trudeau during the G-7 summit in Taormina last Friday.
Mr Emmanuel Macron (left) held a bilateral meeting with Mr Justin Trudeau during the G-7 summit in Taormina last Friday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TAORMINA (Italy) • On a sun- kissed terrace overlooking the sea, the image of Mr Emmanuel Macron and Mr Justin Trudeau staring into each other's eyes had social media swooning over the budding bromance between the two young leaders at the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in Sicily.

Just 24 hours earlier in Brussels, Mr Macron had crushed Mr Donald Trump's hand until his knuckles turned white and walked past the United States President to embrace German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the blue Nato welcome carpet.

At his debut on the world stage, the new French President revealed a steeliness that belies his 39 years and relative inexperience.

There was the power play with Mr Trump when, during the war of handshakes, he spoke at some length in French with no translator. He then spoke English with Mrs Theresa May, offering cooperation in the light of the Manchester attack, while not ceding an inch on the Prime Minister's request for parallel Brexit talks.

To be sure, Mr Macron remains firmly in his honeymoon period and has a raft of challenges ahead - he leads a country divided and drew much of his support from voters looking to stop far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

He is inheriting an unemployment rate roughly double that of Britain and Germany, an economy that has lagged the euro-area average for three years and he will need to cobble together some kind of majority after parliamentary elections next month.

Nonetheless, for Mr Macron, three days of hanging out with many of the world's most influential players from the new Nato headquarters to the ancient hilltop town of Taormina helped set the style and tone for his five-year presidency.

At a round table in a former monastery, six leaders argued with Mr Trump on trade and climate change, with Mr Macron particularly adamant that there could be no diluting of the Paris Agreement to accommodate the Americans.

Mr Macron appeared to form a special bond with Mr Trudeau, with television cameras lingering on the two Generation Xers strolling down the hill conversing in French while Mr Trump, at 70 the oldest G-7 leader, stayed behind to wait for a golf cart to give him a lift through the narrow cobbled streets.

"Justin has been inspiring," Mr Macron said last Friday as the pair met for the first time since his election victory this month. "We belong to a generation of leaders that will deeply renew practices and a vision of global affairs."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Bromance blooms between Macron and Trudeau in Italy'. Print Edition | Subscribe