BIARRITZ, France — President Donald Trump arrived at a meeting of the world’s major powers here Saturday amid signs that the economic and political head winds gathering across the globe would be stirred rather than tempered at this year’s Group of Seven summit.
Hours before the meetings began, European Council President Donald Tusk warned that Trump’s trade wars could tip the world into a recession.
French President Emmanuel Macron surprised Trump with an impromptu lunch and began discussing “a lot of crises” as Trump sat stone-faced. Trump administration officials privately griped about the unscheduled meal and the French government’s decision to focus the G-7 on issues such as climate change and inequality instead of trade.
While Trump struck a positive tone upon his arrival in Biarritz — tweeting “Big weekend with other world leaders!” — the tension surrounding the meeting was held barely below the surface as anxious diplomats kept close watch on the president’s Twitter account. Trump administration officials hinted that the president was prepared to disrupt the meeting’s carefully planned script with his trademark bombast.
During a special meeting Sunday about the state of the global economy, requested by the White House, Trump will have an opportunity to set the tone for the gathering. While Macron has sought to organize the G-7 around issues such as global inequality and development in Africa, Trump plans to use the gathering to press his “America First” agenda on trade and economic growth, officials said.
On Saturday, Trump used his brief public remarks to praise the “perfect” weather and predict that Macron and other world leaders “will accomplish a lot.”
In the days leading up to the summit, Trump escalated his trade war with China, blasted Denmark for not selling Greenland to the United States, declared the world to be in recession, harassed his central bank chairman, threatened tariffs against several G-7 nations and called for G-7 (or G-8) outcast Russia to be readmitted to the group.
Trump’s continued embrace of his “America First” agenda indicates the various world powers will not be able to rely on the United States for steady leadership amid crisis, said Jon Alterman, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“There has been a complete realization on the world stage that the U.S. is not playing its traditional role, and may never again play the role it’s played for 75 years,” he said.