Five things to watch as Trump heads to G-7 summit

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE departs late Friday for what is poised to be a busy, and possibly tense, meeting with leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) economies in France over the weekend.

The summit comes at a time of global economic turmoil, and is certain to display international divides over trade, climate change, Syria’s civil war and other global security challenges. 

Trump is also facing pressure over his trade war with China and growing worries that the U.S. economy could be headed toward a recession. Trump widened the dispute with China on Friday, threatening retaliation over a new set of reciprocal tariffs from Beijing while demanding that U.S. companies leave China.  

ADVERTISEMENT

The rising tensions between pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and China’s Communist Party are also likely to hang over the meeting.

Here are five things to watch as Trump huddles with the leaders of France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, India and Canada at the annual G-7 summit. 

Potential for tensions on trade, economy 

Trump plans to make trade a central focus of his conversations with foreign leaders and will take a victory lap to take credit for the U.S. economic gains made under his administration, even amid growing fears that a recession could be on the horizon. 

The global economy and trade will be the subject of a formal session Sunday morning, which was added at Trump’s request. 

A senior administration official told reporters Thursday that Trump would champion his “pro-jobs, pro-growth economic agenda,” while crediting his policies with delivering stronger economic growth and expanding jobs at home. 

“You can contrast this to what’s happening in Europe, where growth is effectively flat,” the administration official continued. 

Trump clashed with other leaders on trade at last year’s summit in Canada, and the meeting in France could produce much of the same.

Trump has accused European countries of unfair trade practices and threatened new tariffs on goods from the European Union, a message he is likely to amplify in the upcoming discussions. 

There is also the pressing issue of the weakening global economy, which leaders could look to address over the weekend. 

“If you think about 2008, these meetings were very operational in terms of what the global economies can do together to alleviate the risk of a recession or an international crisis,” said Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, referring to the Global Financial Crisis.

But Wright doubted Trump would agree to any coordinated response to help the global economy, pointing to the contentious nature of past global summits. 

Trump’s trade war with China and the uncertainty surrounding it has been blamed in part for slowing the global economy, and the topic is likely to be a point of discussion among the leaders, especially following Friday’s events. 

How G-7 reacts to Trump’s proposal on Russia

This week, Trump breathed new life into his idea of bringing back Russia into the G-7 meetings, all but guaranteeing that the topic will come up over the weekend. 

Trump argued it would be better for Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTrump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy Feehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision Taliban travels to Moscow after Trump declares talks dead MORE to be a part of the discussions because issues involving Russia are often raised. 

“I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in,” Trump told reporters Tuesday in the Oval Office, without mentioning Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula — the reason Moscow was expelled from the annual meeting in 2014. 

The following day, Trump said Russia had “outsmarted” President Obama with its invasion of Crimea, saying that was the reason for Moscow’s expulsion. 

While Trump has expressed support for Russia’s readmission, he has not specified any conditions that Putin would need to meet.

Other leaders, such as French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Whistleblower Edward Snowden calls on Macron to grant him asylum in France Trump to meet with India's Modi in Texas, Australia's Morrison in Ohio MORE, have acknowledged that Russia could be readmitted but only after ending its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, where conflict persists to this day. 

A senior administration official noted Thursday that Russia has not yet asked to rejoin, which would need to happen before any decision. 

Climate high on the agenda 

World leaders were scheduled to discuss climate and biodiversity at session Monday morning, but the topic took on increased urgency as the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has been engulfed by wildfires.

Macron, the host and agenda-setter for this year’s summit, tweeted Thursday that the fires represented an “international crisis,” noting that the Brazilian forests produce 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen.

“Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days!” Macron tweeted.

Trump is an outlier compared to other G-7 leaders on the issue of climate change. He has characterized it as a hoax and cast doubt on government reports warning about the severe effects of a warming planet.

The president also pledged shortly after taking office that he would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a global pact to reduce emissions and fight climate change that each of the other G-7 members has signed.

The Miami Herald reported this week that Trump would skip the session focused on climate, leaving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists It's time for Congress to address the 'forever chemical' crisis Trump administration plans to reduce pesticide testing on birds MORE to attend in his place. 

But a senior administration official said Trump would stress his environmental record during meetings this weekend.

“I think that we have a balanced approach that works and the president is going to be really engaged with his colleagues in talking about all of that,” the official told reporters.

First face-to-face with Boris Johnson

Trump will have breakfast with Boris Johnson on Sunday morning, the first time the two men will meet face-to-face since Johnson took office as prime minister in the United Kingdom last month.

ADVERTISEMENT

The president has spoken fondly of Johnson and the two leaders have spoken over the phone four times in the last month.

“He’s tough and he’s smart,” Trump said of Johnson in July, days before he was sworn in. “They’re saying ‘Britain Trump.’ They call him ‘Britain Trump.’”

Their meeting will include discussion of a bilateral trade deal and progress on Brexit. But the former agreement must wait for the latter, as the conditions of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union will largely determine its trading laws moving forward.

Trump was openly critical of Johnson’s predecessor and how she handled Brexit negotiations, lamenting that Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Mark Ruffalo dismisses Boris Johnson's comparisons to the Hulk: 'The Hulk only fights for the good of the whole' Queen Elizabeth to honor ex-British ambassador who called Trump 'inept' MORE did not take his advice. Johnson has been a staunch supporter of the movement to leave the EU, and has pledged to follow through on Brexit by the end of October.

With that deadline fast approaching and the U.S. seen as a key partner in a post-Brexit era, Johnson may seek to avoid confrontation with Trump this weekend on issues like climate change and Iran where the two men have marked differences. 

“Is he [Johnson] truly that soulmate on a variety of issues, or will he in fact need to change his posture … because he does so desperately need the U.S. to support him through this Brexit process,” said Heather Conley, a former deputy assistant secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration.

Can everyone just get along? 

France may deem its turn as host nation a success if it’s able to avert any high-profile clashes among attendees, which overshadowed last year’s proceedings in Canada.

The summit is expected to end without the signing of a joint communiqué, marking the first time in history the meeting hasn’t been capped with a formal, written agreement.

“They don’t want to have six plus one. They want seven. Now more than ever, they need a unified voice on economic challenges and global challenges,” Conley said.

The president’s mood has a tendency to dictate gatherings like the G-7, and he may arrive seeking to confront other world leaders following a volatile week in Washington and an escalation of his trade dispute with China.

He has been critical of Macron about a digital services tax that would apply to American companies like Amazon and Google and has threatened taxes on French wine in response. A senior administration official said Trump will raise the issue with Macron in person.

Trump will meet one-on-one with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where the two will cover trade and security issues. They will also discuss rising tensions between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region.

The president claimed earlier this month that Modi had asked him to personally mediate the dispute, but the Indian government promptly said that was not the case.

Trump will also meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He has previously chastised Germany over a gas pipeline deal with Russia and has been at odds with Merkel on a number of issues.

At last year’s G-7 in Canada, a photo went viral of other world leaders huddled around Trump as he sat with his arms folded. He reportedly gave Starburst candies to Merkel and quipped “don’t say I never give you anything,” and announced he would not sign the group communique after Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauPhoto shows Justin Trudeau wearing brownface at 2001 party Our last best chance of redemption: Why Congress needs to pass USMCA Pelosi updates Trudeau on status of Trump's NAFTA revamp MORE said the country would respond in kind to U.S. tariffs.