World

G7 summit gets underway amid global trade uncertainty

Sunday's gathering in the French seaside resort of Biarritz comes on the heels of the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hoping for a quick trade accord with the United States as Britain's exit from the European Union approaches.

Sunday's gathering in Biarritz, France, will tackle Brexit and U.S. trade war with China

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, U.S. President Donald Trump, gather with the other G7 leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sunday in Biarritz, France. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged that the prospect of a Brexit deal is "touch and go," as other European Union governments grasp the problems Britain has with the withdrawal agreement.

Johnson told the BBC on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in France that in the last few days "there has been a dawning realization in Brussels and other European capitals what the shape of the problem is for the U.K."

The British parliament has three times rejected a Brexit deal that Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, had agreed upon with the EU. Among the key issues is how to prevent the return of a border between EU member Ireland and Britain's Northern Ireland.

"I think it's going to be touch and go but the important thing is to get ready to come out without a deal," Johnson said.

Johnson and European Council President Donald Tusk sought out a bit of common ground during a meeting at the G7 summit, the day after a testy exchange about Britain's pending exit from the European Union.

Along with Johnson and Tusk, the summit is attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italy's acting Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, meets European Union Council President Donald Tusk at a bilateral meeting during the summit. (Andrew Parsons/Reuters)

The long-running tensions over Britain's departure from the EU got more personal on Saturday. Johnson and Tusk each suggested that the other is bent on scuttling the chances that the U.K. will break away from the single market of 500 million people with an agreement.

But on Sunday, the exchange was a bit friendlier. Johnson said he and Tusk largely agreed on the world's major issues, regardless of whether there is a deal on Brexit.

Tusk agreed Britain and Europe would remain close regardless of what happens at the Oct. 31 deadline.

Trump and Johnson said they are talking about the way forward on a comprehensive trade agreement after Britain leaves the European Union.

In a joint statement Sunday after their first meeting, the two said they would create a working group on trade issues. Johnson has complained about American restrictions on imports of food and other items.

Stickhandling Iran tensions

Macron said he has no formal mandate to speak for the G7 leaders in delivering a message to Iran, but said he would be able to address the issue in the context of what they agreed to during a dinner.

His comments came after Trump denied agreeing to anything regarding how to negotiate with Iran. Macron described the dinner as "an informal discussion, free, intense, extremely long" that touched especially on the fires in the Amazon, the Ukrainian crisis and Russia.

He said Trump is the president of the "world's number one power" who has to defend his voters' interest, and had made his views on Iran and other subjects quite clear.

Macron is walking a fine line as the host of this year's G7 summit of major democracies, which is focused on the threat of a global recession, climate change and other major issues.

Climate activists hold upside down official portraits of French President Emmanuel Macron stolen from town halls throughout France during a march in Bayonne, near Biarritz, as part of the G7 summit, France, August 25, 2019. (Sergio Perez/Reuters)

Protests wrap up

Anti-capitalist protesters have cancelled demonstrations planned outside the G7 summit in southwest France after one of their leaders was among dozens detained in skirmishes with police.

Alexis Chaussalet of activist group Attac said further actions Sunday are postponed because "conditions are not met" to demonstrate peacefully.

Police have locked down the area around the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, and detained 68 people at a protest Saturday accused of throwing projectiles and other disruptions.

Local authorities said no one was injured but Chaussalet said dozens of demonstrators were hurt. He also said a protest leader who had been central to negotiations with local authorities to ensure peaceful demonstrations was arrested overnight.