The G-7 Summit could be the start of a serious allied challenge to Washington’s leadership.
Group of seven meetings, known as the G-7 Summit, are usually civil, even boring. They feature heavily scripted discussions with a bias toward consensus, so genuine news only rarely emerges. But the G-7 Summit, which began in Quebec on Friday, might yield a surprise or two. The most important issue is whether President Donald Trump’s counterparts have grown some cojones and are willing to challenge the United States on economic and security issues.
The summit meetings began four decades ago. They bring together the leaders of Western industrialized states and typically focuses on economic issues. However, the participants are mostly American military allies. That means that the president will be meeting with his counterparts from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.
U.S. presidents haven’t always gotten on well with allied leaders, but never have so many of their relationships—both personal and official—been so toxic. Before heading for Canada, President Trump complained about his hosts burning down the White House two centuries ago (actually, it was the British), while ignoring Americans’ multiple, and largely disastrous, invasion attempts of Canada. He also sniped at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for “being so indignant” (after all, the president never exhibits indignation, righteous or otherwise) and again complained about America’s trade deficit, which economists recognize to be an accounting fiction.
In return, the Canadaians and the Europeans have been unusually irritated, and perhaps willing to act on their anger. French President Emmanuel Macron, who enjoys one of the better personal relationships with President Trump, observed: “The American president may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a six country agreement if need be.” After all, “these six countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”