President Trump Meets the G7 and the G20
John Kirton, Director, G7 Research Group, and Co-director, G20 Research Group
November 11, 2016
On May 26-27, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump will have his first outing on the full world stage when he attends the annual Group of Seven (G7) summit in Taormina, Sicily. The world is already wondering what will happen when Trump meets the G7 to deal face to face for the first time with his fellow world leaders from Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada and the European Union. Many instinctively think the summit is due for a disaster, as a defiant Trump confronts his fellow leaders' core convictions and policy priorities on climate change, migration and open trade. Yet there are good grounds to believe that all G7 leaders' can act wisely to have Trump bond with the G7.
This happened before, in 1981, when the United States sent a brand new far right wing Republican president, Ronald Reagan, to the first G7 hosted by Canada and its veteran left-leaning francophone Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, backed by the newly elected far left French President Franois Mitterrand and Germany's Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. The new U.S. president, who knew little about the world, liked his fellow leaders and the collective limelight, the direct informal conversation and the innovative deal making that the summit fostered. He adjusted to his partners' priorities in ways that benefited all.
At the 2017 Taormina Summit, Trump will have built-in allies from several weighty, fellow conservative leaders — Japan's Shinzo Abe, Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Theresa May. He will find that they largely agree with him on his core conviction and the Italian summit host's first priority — managing migration, be it from across the Mediterranean, the Muslim world, Mexico and on a global scale. They and France's Franois Hollande and Canada's Justin Trudeau agree that they urgently need to make trade work for the workers, and Trudeau can tell them again how his approach is working at home and can for them, too. Almost all G7 leaders will follow Trump's lead in cooperatively unleashing fiscal stimulus through deficit spending to quickly boost economic growth and employment, and even a still skeptical Merkel can find ways to go with the flow. And all will enthusiastically join Trump's first priority policy pledge as president-elect — to invest in infrastructure to create jobs now for the many who have been left behind and to give a badly needed boost to productivity in the medium term.
This bonding will stand all G7 leaders in good stead six weeks later when they head to Hamburg, Germany, for the bigger, broader Group of 20 summit that Merkel will host. Only then will Trump face across the summit table the leaders of China and Mexico, whose countries were his number-one enemies in his presidential campaign bid and which the U.S. electorate as now backed with a mandate whose details need to be defined. He will also encounter Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose style Trump has said he admires and with whom he wants a more accommodating approach. And Trump will also confront the G20 summit's top priority of controlling climate change, where Trump's declared approach is diametrically opposed to that of Merkel, and all of the other consequential leaders there. Yet the basic bond built on policy and personality in the G7 Taormina Summit could well be strong enough to make the G20 Hamburg Summit a success, especially if Trump and his fellow leaders learn how to bring out the best in one another and pull for their own and for the common global good.
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