The first fissures emerged among G-7 leaders on Sunday over how to deal with Iran, as U.S. President Donald Trump denied he had signed on to an agreement on giving France a leading role as a go-between with the world’s major democracies.
Trump had tried to play down tensions among Group of Seven leaders after an intimate dinner Saturday in the southwest French resort of Biarritz, but came out swiftly to dispute France’s claim that they had agreed to let President Emmanuel Macron deliver a message to Iran on their behalf.
For several months, Macron has taken a lead role in trying to save the 2015 nuclear accord, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement.
No details were provided on what the G-7 message to Iran would be but Macron said the goal is to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and avoid a further escalation in tensions in the Middle East.
“I haven’t discussed that,” Trump said Sunday morning. He described the dinner as “very, very good” and blamed the media for anything that implied otherwise.
But it seemed from other accounts that the previous night’s dinner had been tense and the divide between him and the rest of the G-7 were clear.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, greeting Macron for a morning meeting, congratulated the French president and shook his hand.
“You did very well last night. My God that was a difficult one. You did brilliant, you did brilliant,” he said.
Johnson himself was critical of the U.S. trade war with China, which has been casting shadows over the world economy.
The G-7 leaders regrouped on Sunday morning to focus on what they can do to boost growth at a time of heightened uncertainty. Manufacturers around the world are smarting from the trade dispute between the U.S. and China, which has led to new import taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of goods. Businesses don’t know where tariffs will be imposed next.
The White House had said putting the economy on the agenda was Trump’s idea, but the G-7 has for over four decades always included a focus on the economy: it was founded as a response to the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s and the recession that followed.
The backdrop is particularly worrying this year, with the U.S. economy slowing and Germany and Italy close to recession.
Meanwhile, Britain is due to leave the EU in October and there is no agreement on how it should happen, raising the possibility of a disorderly exit that could wreak havoc for business in Europe.