Leaders of the world’s rich nations are bracing themselves for contentious talks with Donald Trump at a G7 summit after the US president lambasted NATO allies for not spending more on defence and accused Germany of “very bad” trade policies.
Trump’s confrontational remarks in Brussels, on the eve of the two-day summit in the Mediterranean resort town of Taormina in Sicily, cast a pall over a meeting at which America’s partners had hoped to coax him into softening his stances on trade and climate change.
The summit was to start on Friday with a ceremony at an ancient Greek theatre perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, before the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US begin talks on terrorism, Syria, North Korea and the global economy.
“We will have a very robust discussion on trade and we will be talking about what free and open means,” White House economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters on Thursday.
He also predicted “fairly robust” talks on whether Trump should honour a US commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Trump, who dismissed man-made global warming a “hoax” during his election campaign, is not expected to decide at the summit whether he will stick with the Paris deal, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Even if a decision is not forthcoming, European leaders have signalled they will push Trump hard on the Paris emissions deal.
The summit, being held near Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna, is the final leg of a nine-day tour for Trump – his first foreign trip since becoming president – that started in the Middle East.
On Thursday in Brussels, with NATO leaders standing alongside him, he accused members of the military alliance of owing “massive amounts of money” to the US and NATO – even though allied contributions are voluntary.
According to German media reports, he also condemned Germany for “very bad” trade policies in meetings with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, signalling he would take steps to limit the sales of German cars in the US.
EU officials declined to confirm the reports.
Trump will not be the only G7 newcomer.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and British Prime Minister Theresa May are attending the elite club for the first time.
May is expected to leave a day early following Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people.