BIARRITZ, France Under the threatening clouds of a global economic slowdown, President Donald Trump is confronting the consequences of his preference to go it alone, with low expectations that the leaders of the richest democracies can make substantive progress on an array of issues at their summit in France.

The meeting of the Group of Seven nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S. — in the beach resort town of Biarritz comes at one of the most unpredictable moments in Trump’s presidency, when his public comments and decision-making increasingly have seemed erratic and acerbic of late.

Trump, who arrived Saturday, and his counterparts are facing mounting anxiety over the state of the world economy and new tension on trade, Iran and Russia. Trump might find a tepid reception at the summit as calls increase for cooperation and a collective response to deal with the financial downturn. White House aides said Trump engineered a late change to the summit agenda, requesting a working session on economic issues.

The economic warning signs, along with Chinese’s aggressive use of tariffs on U.S. goods, are raising the pressure on Trump and his reelection effort. He intends to push allies at the summit to act to promote growth.

But Trump’s credibility as a cheerleader for multilateralism is in doubt, given that he has spent the first 2½ years in office promoting an “America First” foreign policy that relying on protectionist measures. Traditional U.S. allies have come to expect the unexpected from this White House; they are increasingly looking elsewhere for leadership.

Only hours before his arrival in Biarritz, Trump had threatened anew to place tariffs on French wine imports to the U.S. in a spat over France’s digital services tax; the European Union promised to retaliate. That was the backdrop for a late addition to his summit schedule — a two-hour lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron outside the opulent Hotel du Palais.

The summit host said the two men were discussing “a lot of crisis” around the world, including Libya, Iran and Russia, as well as trade policy and climate change. But he also echoed Trump’s calls for Europe to do more to deal with the global slowdown, including by cutting taxes. “When I look at Europe, especially, we need some new tools to relaunch our economy,” Macron said.

Trump insisted that despite tensions, he and Macron “actually have a lot in common” and a “special relationship.” In a later tweet, he wrote: “Big weekend with other world leaders!

Macron outlined details of a French plan to ease tensions with Iran by allowing Iran to export oil for a limited amount of time, said a French diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with the presidency’s customary practices. In exchange, Iran would need to fully put in place the 2015 nuclear deal, reduce tensions in the Persian Gulf and open talks. The plan was met with a skeptical reception by Trump, and the White House paid only a cursory mention of the Gulf in its official readout of the lunch meeting.

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily morning newsletter.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Load comments