Donald Trump arrived in Italy Friday for his inaugural G-7 summit, where he’s expected to clash with his fellow world leaders on topics like climate change, free trade, and the refugee crisis.
The summit is taking place on the island of Sicily — chosen specifically by newly elected Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in order to highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of migrants that continue to flood the island.
The White House administration has reportedly been resisting European attempts to make refugees the main focus of the meeting. According to a report in Foreign Policy, the resistance has come specifically from Steven Miller, the 31-year-old White House senior adviser and speechwriter, who instead wants world leaders to focus on the fight against terrorism — a topic given added weight by this week’s attack in Manchester, England.
At the opening of the summit Friday morning, European council president Donald Tusk said this year’s meeting was going to be “the most challenging G-7 in years,” before pointedly focusing on the migrant crisis: “We have to keep this position that the migration crisis is global issue, and not only local or regional, and I hope we will convince our new colleagues around the table that what we need today is solidarity at the global level.”
Tusk’s comments come in the wake of the White House’s recently released budget plan, which proposes deep cuts to U.S. foreign aid.
The G-7 summit is the final stop on Trump’s first trip overseas as president. The tour kicked off in the Middle East, where he offered messages of peace, tolerance, and inclusivity — but since arriving in Europe, the tone has been much more adversarial. On Thursday he berated his NATO allies for failing to pay their fair share, before shoving the prime minister of Montenegro out of his way for a photo op, and calling Germany “very bad” over its car sales to the U.S.
Trump isn’t the only leader making his G-7 debut, with British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and Gentiloni also making their first appearances at the annual summit. The major shakeup in global politics in the last 12 months means that this weekend’s meetings will see new relationships formed among the world’s most powerful leaders.
But Trump might not come away with many new friends. The president is likely to disagree with several leaders, not only about the migrant crisis but also about climate change and free trade.
During his election campaign, Trump said he would not stick to the pledges made by the Obama administration at the U.N.’s Paris climate change conference in 2015 — namely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent before 2025. But Trump has wavered on this promise since his election. Ahead of the summit, Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn said: “We know that the levels that were agreed to by the prior administration would be highly crippling to the U.S. economic growth.” Though he added that Trump was “interested in what the G-7 leaders have to say.”
Key to convincing Trump, according to one source speaking to the Guardian, will be showing the administration that developing renewable energy and technology will be a driver of economic growth and job creation — a stated priority for Trump’s team.
On Thursday evening in Brussels, Trump made his feelings about free trade clear when he called Germany “bad, very bad” for running a trade surplus with the U.S. “Look at the millions of cars they’re selling in the U.S. Terrible. We will stop this,” he said.
Trump was asked about this comment Friday morning but ignored reporters’ questions. His protectionist stance is in stark contrast with positions held by other G-7 leaders who are hoping to get the U.S. president to agree to a trade deal in which WTO rules are respected.
One area where Trump is in broad agreement with his G-7 colleagues is the danger posed by North Korea’s increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapons technology. On Friday, Trump said he was looking forward to discussing the issue with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying: “It’s a big problem. It’s a world problem. And it will be solved at some point. It will be solved. You can bet on that.”