After Isolating America at G20 in Hamburg, Trump Returns to France for Bastille Day


By Axel Krause
Paris, July 10, 2017

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel who had hoped that the two-day summit of the world’s most-industrialized nations would result in agreements on climate change and trade, had to admit that what Politico Europe described as « a horror show »of violent street protests, cast a menacing cloud over what was accomplished.

Perhaps pointed and a somewhat cynical, limited view of the results, Politico noted that after a year of preparation the summit produced little more than a « cotton-mouthed 15-page communiqué full of soon-to-be-forgotten grand intentions. »

Mrs. Merkel, defending her summit leadership said that « I am satisfied that we managed to say clearly that markets need to remain open, » a statment endorsed by Mr.Trump ; it noted « the importance of reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks and the principle of non-discrimination. »

« I have to take things as they are, » Mrs.Merkel said in her closing press conference Saturday.

And those things covered a range of highly-controversial issues, particularly the future of the Paris accords on climate change we recently described in this space, which President Donald Trump has steadfastly rejected, but that was clearly termed « irreversible » by the other 19 leaders.

Indeed, as today’s International New York Times concluded : taking « note » of Mr. Trump’s position, they agreed to move forward collectively on climate change without the United States, while the president « seemed to relish his isolation. »

According to the INYT and other US media, Mr.Trump’s « battered » advisers « found unexpected comfort » in the fact that the many thousands of protesters directed their violent rampaging in the nation’s second-largest city not so much at the president as the G-20’s perceived support of globalism and free trade.

Nevertheless, referring to the presidential trip, there was no hiding what a close former press aide to Hillary Clinton, among many others, claimed was nothing less than a manifestation of « how the US has relinquished its role as the indispensable nation. »

More of the same, including policy discussions and protest marches, are expected later this week as Mr.Trump returns to Europe, visiting Paris to participate in the annual, July 14 Bastille Day festivities. Invited by President Emmanuel Macron to attend the annual, military-themed parade, which this year will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the US entry on the French and British sides in the First World War, Mr.Trump will review marching French and American troops. and with his wife Melania dine with Mr.Macron and his wife Brigitte at a secluded, secure site – the Jules Verne restaurant high up in the landmark Eiffel Tower, overlooking the city.

Not only will the two leaders who are hardly close, improve their budding relationshsip, in what the Journal du Dimanche yesterday described as « a petit comité » in order to « sympathiser » but they are sure to take up Mr. Macron’s surprise announcement made Saturday – to host on December 12 an international climate conference, focusing on financing climate change.

That reflected Mr. Macron’s goal to improve his worldwide image as the key EU leader, alongside Mrs. Merkel, and pehaps to bring Mr. Trump around on reversing his tough stand on the Paris agreement, convinced he may well be interested in the fallout potential for American companies and banks.

Though there has been no official announcement yet on what the two leaders will discuss, the respected French weekly newspaper also reported that the hope of diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic is to back off the focus on climate change and address « « subjets that work » better, notably solutions to the tragic, continuing crisis in Syria and the battle against terrorism.

Protests led by France’s left-wing opposition groups are planned for the Trump visit, that will also include Democrats Abroad.

In another example of how Mr. Trump favors one-on-one, bilateral discussions and deals, that also surfaced in Hamburg, he announced what would amount to a « very very big deal, a very powerful » bilateral trade agreement with Britain. Once the Brexit agreements, assuming they are in place, take effect.

Citing his « very special relationship » with Prime Minister Theresa May attending the Hamburg summit and who warmly welcomed what yesterday’s London Sunday Times termed « a lifeline…trade deal » the president said it would be done « very, very quickly. » She added :« We’ve already started talking with the Americans. »

Mr.Trump, who had earlier declined an invitation to visit London, fearing massive protests, also said it was back on, but details, such as a date have not yet been fixed.

With regard to trade and in contrast to Mrs.Merkel’s upbeat tone about it at the close of the G-20 summit, Macron was quoted in today’s daily Le Monde as warning that the « text (of the communiqué) does not hide the tensions that exist and will continue to exist on this topic for a good, long while. »

Indeed, a pending decision in Washington regarding imports of steel was another center of controversy at the summit. According to several sources, including the Washington Post, restrictions, such as tariffs, could be imposed and possibly this week, citing unfair trade practices with regard to exports of steel producers ; they include Canada, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, China and Turkey.

In a rare show of united counter-attack from the the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, « we will, » he said, « respond with countermeasures if need be, hoping that this is not actually necessary…we are prepared to take up arms if need be. » Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, supportive of Juncker’s warning, added that new protectionist trade measures would trigger « contagion » spreading protectionism to the world economy.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom warned that any new tariffs on steel would also be challenged in the World Trade Organization, stating that « if global trade rules are not upheld, the EU will retaliate, but I cannot say now how exactly how and when. » But clearly, Brussels is getting ready for a new trans-Atlantic trade war.

According to the Financial Times, cited in Le Monde, the products that are on the list for EU retaliation include US exports of orange juice,dairy products and bourbon made in Kentucky, apparently picked as a hit against influential Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, whose state he represents.

But for pure media, people-inspired buzz during the G-20 we had the much-commented, first, face-to-face meeting Friday between Mr.Trump and Russian strongman leader Vladimir Putin ; that, contrary to all expectaitons lasted two hours and some sixteen minutes, and that had virtually nothing to do with the summit’s formal agenda ; just a convenient place to meet. They agreed to work on a plan for a ceasefire in southwest Syria ; to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, amid confusing versions of what was said during their meeting in Hamburg.

For example, according to the Politico Europe version, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said he coulde not recall if it was Mr. Trump or US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who first talked about the charges of Russian meddling in the last US presidential election, an accusation both Russians told Mr. Trump could not, in any case, be proven. But both Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump moved on to other subjects, such as jointly developing some kind of cybersecurity pact.

And though Mr. Putin said, warmly, that he found Mr. Trump far more attractive as a potential partner than he had imagined watching him on television, their meeeting was greeted with considerable skepticism, I and other former Moscow hands share. No one in my view summed it up better than Maureen Dowd, the feisty, biting New York Times columnist who in today’s INYT ended her article today saying : « The Russians do not have our best interests at heart. They are conjuring Trump’s worst ‘1984’ fear : playing him for a sucker. »

Axel Krause is the Paris-based contributing editor of TransAtlantic Magazine, who as correspondent, bureau chief and editor for Business Week and the International Herald Tribune has for decades covered Europe, the US and Russia. He is the author of Inside the New Europe.






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