Aug 24, 2019

Disruption takes over the G7

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump has generally been outnumbered at summits like the G7 — the disrupter-in-chief in a room of more sober-minded leaders. This time around, disruption is the rule. 

Why it matters: French President Emmanuel Macron, who's hosting the summit this weekend in the seaside town of Biarritz, warned ahead of the gathering that twin threats to democracy and capitalism must be vanquished in order to ensure a free and prosperous future. For this weekend, though, he’d probably settle for anything short of disaster.

The big picture: Macron may be the host, but all eyes will be on Trump and Boris Johnson, the U.K.’s new prime minister.

  • Johnson’s on a whistlestop tour to sound out largely unreceptive EU leaders on the possibility of striking a new divorce deal before the U.K. exits the bloc, “do or die,” by October 31.
  • The course seems to be set for a cataclysmic “no deal” exit that could rattle the global economy. Macron blames Johnson, leaders in Westminster are threatening to remove him from office, but the Trump administration is cheering him on.

In the meantime, other G7 leaders are having big problems of their own.

Italy’s in the midst of a political crisis that makes it uncertain who will be filling its chair when world leaders gather again. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will represent Italy days after submitting his resignation amid a far-right revolt that doomed his governing coalition.

  • Matteo Salvini, the fiercely anti-immigrant leader of the League party, hopes he'll be the one representing Italy next time. He’s Italy’s most popular politician and, as an ardent critic of the European project, Macron’s bitter foe.

Germany's Angela Merkel will be attending her 14th G7 summit as Germany’s chancellor, and one of her last — she’s said she’ll step aside by 2021.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, another forceful voice for multilateralism, might beat her out the door. He’s struggling to get out from under an ethics scandal ahead of elections in October, and his Liberal Party trails the Conservatives narrowly in the polls.
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan is another G7 regular. But a fast-escalating feud with South Korea and maintaining warm relations with Trump will perhaps loom larger in his mind than speaking out in defense of the multilateral order.
  • Macron, meanwhile, cuts a more formidable figure on the world stage than at home, where his approval rating languishes at 27% and the far right is clawing at the door.

The bottom line: Macron has acknowledged the obvious: this won’t be a normal G7. He’s already ruled out a communiqué, the joint statement that routinely follow such international gatherings, as "pointless" in light of disagreements with Trump on key issues.

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Why it matters: Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party and perhaps the most popular politician in Italy, withdrew his support on Aug. 8 from the unlikely coalition he had formed with Five Star after the 2018 election. Salvini hoped fresh elections might allow him to become prime minister. Instead, his gamble has expelled his party out of power. Conte has agreed to stay on as prime minister of the new coalition, per BBC.

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