By Prabasi Nepali
On the last lap of his multi-nation foreign trip, US President Donald Trump finally discarded his smiles and adopted a position of resistance to mutual beneficial policies. The G- 7 nations at their summit in Sicily risked unprecedented deadlock as US President Donald Trump resisted pressure to sign up to joint positions on crucial issues such as climate change, trade and migration. Trump categorically resisted the hosts’ desire to issue a declaration underlining the benefits as well as the pitfalls of migration. This is the kind of language that is anathema to a White House that aims to impose a ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries.
Trump started his first presidential trip abroad wreathed in smiles, but ended it with rebukes, upbraiding his European partners over military spending, trade and global warming. An enduring motif of the “Group of Seven” leading democracies (the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan), which not only represents the lion’s share of global economic output but also a group of countries that share certain values has been to champion free trade. At last year’s summit in Japan, the G -7 issued a lengthy communiqué in support of resisting protectionism, as well as helping refugees and fighting climate change. Very much unlike Obama, his successor is defiant about stepping out of the G- 7 vision. Trump has rather stressed the policy of “America First” in his dealings with foreign countries – whether friend or foe – and his leading economic advisor, Gary Cohn stressed: “His basis for decision ultimately will be what’s best for the United States”. The Trump administration forgets to its peril that orderly international relations is always about give and take, about mutual concessions and advantage, and not about pushing one nation’s own selfish agenda.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to have seen the writing on the wall. Faced with a western Atlantic alliance divided by Brexit and Trump’s subversive presidency, at an election rally in Munich, Bavaria last Sunday, she said categorically: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days.” There is definitely a cooling of relations with the US and UK. In Brussels, Trump reportedly described the Germans as “bad, very bad” in their trade practices. She added: “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands”. While Germany and Europe would strive to remain on good terms with America and Britain, “we have to fight for our own destiny”, Merkel went on. In the meantime, the British have been stressing their “special relationship” with America. The Chancellor emphasized the necessity for warm relations between Berlin and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. She labeled the result of the “six against one” discussion frankly “very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory”, after the G- 7 summit wound up Saturday without any agreement between the US and the other six major advanced nations on upholding the 2015 Paris climate accords.
Chancellor Merkel’s statement since after last week’s contentious meetings with Trump has ushered in a new chapter in European-US relations. According to the “Washington Post”: “It was an unusually stark declaration from the normally cautious head of Europe’s most powerful economy, and a grim take on the transatlantic ties that have underpinned Western security in the generations since World War II.” There is now a strong feeling among Western European leaders that they must now turn away from Washington and prepare to face the world alone. The landslide election in France of President Emmanuel Macron has now revived hopes for Franco-German cooperation to bolster an independent European defence capability. EU-leaders want to coordinate defence purchasing and accelerate measures to enhance standing military potential that can be deployed outside NATO command structures, where the United States is the dominant force. Merkel and Macron have already committed to cooperate to further the pro-globalization agenda that Trump stands against. Europe is determined to hit back. Macron, the rising star of the EU said: “We must show that we will not make small concessions, even symbolic ones.” He called his meeting with Trump “a moment of truth” [!] There is, therefore, the real threat that Trump will walk away from the Paris accord on combating climate change. Unfortunately for him, he faces major domestic opposition.
However, the G-7 summit did find some common ground. It endorsed a British call urging internet service providers and social media companies to crack down on jihadist content online (which should have come long ago), after 22 people (mostly very young) were killed in a Manchester concert bombing in northwest England last week. At the urging of Japan, it also adopted a common language against North Korea after a series of missile tests by the reclusive nuclear-armed nation. Two days after the summit, North Korea tested yet another missile, fired from Wonsan, on the east coast, and flew for 280 miles and landed in the sea between Korea and Japan – the seventh time the North has tested a ballistic missile in two months. Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe reacted immediately: “We
absolutely cannot accept North Korea’s repeated provocations despite repeated warnings by the international community.” There is no doubt that the missile tests are improving their accuracy and efficiency.
US to Stop Aid to Tibetans in Exile
According to a report in “The Times of India”, and based on reports published in Washington, the US has reversed its decades-old policy to grant financial aid to Tibetans in exile. It has been reported that the US State Department has sent a detailed proposal to Congress as part of its annual budget and termed the decision as a difficult choice, given that its own total budget was slashed by 28 percent. This proposal of ‘zero aid’ next year has left Tibetans in Indian exile in shock at a juncture when efforts were underway to arrange a meeting of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and US President Donald Trump. There has been no official comment from Beijing. Trump himself would be wary of meeting the Dalai Lama, given that he is very dependent on China to rein in North Korea’s troublesome leader Kim Il-un.
The Tibetan administration-in-exile in Dharamshala has expressed worry, but maintained silence over the issue.
Disharmony Clouds G -7 Summit in Sicily
By Prabasi Nepali