G-7 summit achievement: Trump declares, 'We got along great'

US President Donald Trump and France's President Emmanuel Macron during a joint press conference in Biarritz, France, on Aug 26, the third day of the Group of Seven summit.
US President Donald Trump and France's President Emmanuel Macron during a joint press conference in Biarritz, France, on Aug 26, the third day of the Group of Seven summit.PHOTO: AFP

BIARRITZ (AP) - Never mind his differences with world leaders on China, trade, Russia, Iran and more. US President Donald Trump's takeaway message from the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in France was "unity". In fact, "flawless" unity.

During this year's gathering of leaders of the world's wealthiest democracies, Mr Trump went to great lengths to portray it as something of a lovefest, papering over significant disagreements on major issues.

"If there was any word for this particular meeting of seven very important countries, it was unity," Mr Trump said at a news conference on Monday (Aug 26) closing out the two-day gathering in the French resort of Biarritz.

"We got along great," he said. "We got along great." After Mr Trump disrupted the last two G-7 summits with his erratic behaviour, other world leaders seemed determined to play along this year in the interest of keeping any negative drama out of the headlines.

First came the decision by French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit host, to scrap the annual practice of issuing a lengthy joint statement, or communique, at the summit's conclusion.

The document typically spells out the consensus that leaders have reached on issues on the summit agenda and provides a road map for how they plan to tackle them.

Mr Trump roiled the 2017 meeting in Italy over the climate change passage in that summit's final statement. And he withdrew his signature from the 2018 communique after complaining he had been slighted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the host that year.

"I think it's against that background that Mr Macron decided it's not worth it" to issue a statement, said Mr Thomas Bernes, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada.

Instead, the leaders issued a final "declaration" that began, "The G-7 leaders wish to emphasise their great unity and the positive spirit of their debates."

Mr Macron also sought to play down awkward differences and said that what the G-7 leaders were "really keen on was to convey a positive and joint message following our discussions".

 
 
 
 

The French leader stressed that everyone had worked "together, hand in hand, with Mr Trump over these two days".

For all of the happy talk, though, Trump came under pressure to end his lengthy trade dispute with China that is hurting other nations as well.

Mr Macron said the dispute had served to "create uncertainty" that is "bad for the world economy". Differences over Russia did not stay hidden, either.

Mr Trump, as he had before last year's summit, said he would like to see Russia readmitted to the club. The former Group of Eight (G-8) kicked Russia out after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

While his affinity for Russia has been questioned at home, Mr Trump said on Monday he would prefer Russia be "inside the tent" rather than outside since so many of the issues the leaders discussed involved Russia.

Other members of the Group of Seven besides France, Canada, Italy and the US are Britain, Germany and Japan.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he had privately aired his objection to Russian readmittance.

"Russia has yet to change the behaviour that led to its expulsion in 2014, and therefore should not be allowed back into the G-7," he said at a news conference.

For all the courting of Mr Trump by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Trump would not adopt Mr Abe's position that short-range ballistic missile tests by neighbouring North Korea violate UN resolutions.

Mr Trump insisted that he and Mr Abe were on the "same page" - but he appeared to defend the missile tests by North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un by saying a lot of other people were testing missiles, too.

"We're in the world of missiles, folks, whether you like it or not," he said.

Mr Trump also claimed that "great unity" existed on Iran, but he largely just restated his long-held views about the country, some of them hardly shared.

France, Germany and other G-7 members are unhappy that Mr Trump withdrew the US from a 2015 international pact that eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for the Iranians agreeing to limit their nuclear programme.

Mr Trump said the biggest conclusion the leaders reached was that Iran "can't have nuclear weapons". Far from a breakthrough, that has been the world's position for decades.

Asked about his efforts to ensure that fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group be returned to their home countries across Europe rather than housed by the United States, Mr Trump said during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the G-7 leaders had "a pretty good meeting".

But then he allowed that they had "not reached a total conclusion". "It's unfair for the United States to take them, because they didn't come from the United States," he complained.

Mr Macron flicked at the challenges of smoothing over differences by reaching back in history.

Seeking to justify the role of mediator between Iran and the United States that Mr Macron is carving out, the French leader quoted one of his predecessors, World War II hero General Charles de Gaulle, who said, "Diplomacy is trying to hold together broken windows."