Donald Trump, who last year walked out of the summit, dismissed reports there were tensions. (AP: Andrew Harnik)
It was once the G8, renamed the G7 after Russia was dumped after it annexed Crimea, but increasingly it’s a group struggling to find consensus over the most pressing issues for the world.
- Mr Trump suggested he had second thoughts about his trade war with China but the White House clarified he regretted not making tariffs higher
- Scott Morrison met with Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe at the summit
- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was a surprise guest at the summit
Once upon a time, it wasn’t this hard.
The leaders of the largest industrialised economies could spend a weekend discussing the world’s problems and reach a consensus, then issue a wordy joint communique which if truth be told most would struggle to read.
This year’s host, French President Emmanuel Macron, anticipated trouble, declaring there would be no joint statement at all. Reaching agreement was clearly no longer achievable.
The US President Donald Trump had walked out of the summit the year before, but arriving in the picturesque seaside city of Biarritz dismissed reports of tensions.
“So far so good. The weather is perfect. The guest was fantastic. Everybody’s getting along,” he declared.
But even the leader he’s heaped most praise on, the newly appointed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, couldn’t agree on his stance on trade.
“Just to register a faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war — we are in favour of trade peace on the whole,” Mr Johnson said.
During a bilateral meeting, he added that “the UK has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade”.
Even Mr Johnson, who Mr Trump has praised, could not agree on the President’s trade stance. (AP: Erin Schaff, The New York Times, pool)
Trump’s ‘second thoughts’ on China tariffs
So far the British PM has cruised through the summit unscathed, no gaffes yet, although there is still time.
The same can’t be said for the confusing message Mr Trump sent his allies.
Mr Trump said he had “second thoughts” on his China tariffs, but a White House spokeswoman later clarified his comments. (AP: Andrew Harnik)
During the bilateral meeting with Mr Johnson, he was asked if he’d had second thoughts on ratcheting up his trade threats against China.
“Yeah, sure, why not?” he replied. “Might as well. Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything.”
Mr Johnson’s face said it all. Surprise and a glimmer of relief could be seen.
But it wasn’t to be, a few hours later the White House declared the President had been misinterpreted. He was referring to regret that he hadn’t be more aggressive on tariffs.
“President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
Scott Morrison is a guest at the summit, a side player, but he has been offered an opportunity for discussions with some of world’s most powerful leaders.
He laughed with the American ally and seemed to want it both ways on trade, by agreeing the US needed to protect its interests but urging there be an end to it all.
“The US has legitimate interests that they wish to pursue as part of that trading relationship,” Mr Morrison said.
“It’s not for us to dictate to them any more than it is to China what they should be concluding.
“I think it’s just more broadly in everyone’s interests that they’re able to proceed to a conclusion.”
Internet can be a ‘weapon’, Morrison says
Scott Morrison (centre, back) had the opportunity to talk with some of the world’s most powerful leaders. (AP: Francois Mori)
The Prime Minister announced movement on the joint push with New Zealand to stamp out terrorism and violent extremism online, announcing the OECD group had joined a partnership to strengthen the transparency of tech companies.
They’ll fund a project to develop voluntary transparency reporting protocols to ensure extremism is found and removed.
Georg Matthes on Twitter: Silver lining for Boris Johnson at the #G7. Australia’s Prime Minister tells me right after #Brexit Australia will be “quick off the mark” with a trade deal.
“This incredible new technology which changes the lives of people all around the world is great for our economies, this is all tremendous, but at the same time in the hands of terrorists, in the hands of those who would seek to do others harm, it can be quite a weapon,” Mr Morrison said.
“It’s very important that we ensure that the rules that apply in the physical world apply in the digital world as well.”
Mr Morrison also had bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and sat down with Chile’s President, Sebastian Pinera.
Surprise visitor from Iran
It was speculated Mr Trump didn’t want to attend the summit at all.
With the surprise invitation and arrival of the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, he may have wished he’d stayed away.
At least some leaders had not been aware Mr Zarif was coming to the summit. (Twitter: Mohammad Javad Zarif)
Mr Morrison said he had no idea Mr Zarif was coming either, but he defended Australia’s commitment in the Strait of Hormuz.
“Our involvement there is specifically to deal with the safe shipping lanes … It’s in Australia’s national interest to be there, we are always for freedom of navigation whether it’s in the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea,” he said.
That was an explanation he also gave to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Germany has refused to join the naval mission.