Key Moments During the G-7 Summit in Biarritz
An unexpected guest, a financial pledge for the Amazon, trade talks, and Russia’s reinstatement were just some of the key topics discussed at the 2019 G-7 summit in Biarritz.
On Monday, the 2019 Group of Seven (G-7) summit wrapped up in the French resort city of Biarritz where the leaders of seven of the world’s most advanced economies met for their annual forum on leading global issues.
This year the G-7 forum wrapped up by issuing a statement, instead of the typical communique drawn up, which focused on Iran, Ukraine, Libya, trade talks, and the ongoing popular protests against an extradition bill in Hong Kong.
Opinions on the success of the G-7 meeting varied with some analysts claiming it achieved little consensus, while others saw more hope for resolving the U.S.-China trade dispute and decreasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Below we take a look at the key moments of the 2019 G-7 summit.
G-7’s Pledge to Save Amazon Rainforest
Fires have ravaged Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, which produces about 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen, for the past three weeks and continued to ravage the rainforest during the summit. The G-7 meeting took note and pledged financial and continued support of the Amazon.
According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), preliminary satellite data showed that the Amazon’s deforestation rate jumped almost 90 percent in June, and another 280 percent in July, as the LA Times reported.
The G-7 leaders pledged $22 million to tackle the Amazon rainforest fires, though, notably, the amount was far below the $945 million in private and public donations raised for Paris’ Notre Dame when the famous church caught fire last April.
“We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” France’s President Emmanuel Macron told reporters after the three-day summit. However, it was unclear how the G-7 bloc would disburse the funding and when.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro responded to the G-7 announcement by opposing the foreign assistance and rejecting the aid package, calling it a new form of colonialism. The former military officer accused non-governmental organizations of deliberately burning the Amazon basin as retaliation for cuts in funding to the rainforest, though Bolsonaro provided no evidence and later walked back the accusations.
There are numerous causes for the uptick in the Amazon’s deforestation, including changes in international trade patterns, global warming, and increased land conversion for business and farming. But many groups blame the Bolsonaro administration for advancing deforestation by removing environmental and indigenous land protections and advancing economic development of the rainforest.
“Problems of deforestation and burning in the Amazon have a long history; however, the worsening of this situation in 2019 is a direct result of the behavior of the government of President Jair Bolsonaro,” said a statement by a group of 50 indigenous groups and environmental organisations, which was read out by leaders of the Raoni indigenous community. “President Bolsonaro has encouraged the criminalization of social movements and NGOs, reaching the absurdity of blaming them for increased burning in the Amazon.”
The Unexpected Guest
The presence of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the invite of French President Emmanuel Macron, added an element of surprise to the meeting. A French government official said that the summit’s attendees were notified last minute due to a sensitive diplomatic situation, snubbing allegations that Paris had not announced the arrival of Iran’s top diplomat at all.
A senior French diplomat confirmed that Paris had invited Zarif to the talks, a move seen as Macron’s diplomatic effort to reduce the tension in the Persian Gulf. However, the unidentified diplomat said that France was not acting as a mediator for the U.S., adding that France did not intend to unite the U.S. and Iran.
When asked about Zarif’s arrival, President Donald Trump only replied, “No comment.”
U.S.-Iran tensions have intensified following Washington’s exit from the Iran deal, claiming the agreement was not adequate in compelling Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions, despite multiple International Atomic Energy Agency reports showing Iran had complied with the deal. Iran responded by enriching uranium above the level allowed in the JCPOA.
While Zarif held a three-hour meeting with France’s foreign minister and a one hour talk with Macron, Zarif and Trump did not meet while in Biarritz.
Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues.
Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying. pic.twitter.com/oXdACvt20T
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) August 25, 2019
On the last day of the summit, Trump praised his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a great leader, stressing that Washington and Beijing would resume trade talks to solve the year-long dispute after both sides have imposed import tariffs on each other.
Trump claimed that a Chinese official had contacted an American representative on Monday night.
However, China’s Foreign Ministry claimed that it had not heard of phone contact between Chinese and American representatives regarding plans to resume trade negotiations, wrote South China Morning Post.
Trump’s promise to re-start trade negotiation helped to boost market optimism in Europe and Asian countries. However, the Chinese currency, the Yuan, still plunged to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in the past nine years, Channel News Asia reported.
The G-7 statement also discussed the World Trade Organization (WTO) and said they wanted the WTO to be more active in protecting intellectual property, eradicating unfair trade practices and resolving disputes faster.
Trump Wants Russia to Rejoin G-8
Russia was excluded from the then-G-8 in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea, once part of Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia took control over Crimea by supporting pro-Russia rebel groups.
During the Biarritz summit, Trump urged the group’s members to accept Russia. All rejected the idea except Italy, while Japan chose to be neutral.
“I think it’s advantageous (for Russia to rejoin) but other people don’t necessarily agree with me at this time. We will see what happens,” Trump said, as France24 wrote.
Diplomatic sources said despite the opposition, the G-7 leaders are looking forward to coordinating with the Kremlin, but reintegration is considered too early.
Europe and US Differ
An American diplomat criticized France for inviting non-G-7 members such as Australia, India, Chile, Spain and South Africa to join the summit. By inviting countries outside the G-7, the unnamed official claimed Macron was trying to divide the bloc by focusing on “shallow issues” compared to broader global problems.
France denied the allegation by saying that the second day of the summit discussed the economy, trade and security, the main issues that are becoming sources of a rift among the group’s members.
Speaking on the sidelines of the summit, Macron said the G-7 leaders had agreed on joint action regarding Iran by maintaining communication to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons.
Trump softened his stance on Iran by saying that talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would take place in the coming weeks without providing more details.
“I have a good feeling. They have to be good players if you understand what I mean. They can’t do what they were saying they were going to do, because if they do that, they will be met with really very violent force. So I think they are going to be good,” said Trump in a briefing with reporters at a joint press conference on Monday.
Both Trump and Rouhani are expected to meet at the U.N. General Assembly in New York at the end of September.