G7 summit: Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau meet to offer 'new face for Franco-Canadian friendship'

'We have to meet the challenges of our generation'

Will Worley
Friday 26 May 2017 13:51 BST
Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron meet for first time as leaders

“The Franco-Canadian friendship has a new face,” declared France's Emmanuel Macron, following a meeting with Justin Trudeau at the G7 summit.

The two leaders were photographed talking as they walked through the picturesque scenery of Taormina, Sicily, where the international meet is being held, flanked by their respective bodyguards.

The congenial scene created by the two youthful politicians was a marked contrast to the forced interactions between the leaders and Donald Trump at Thursday's Nato proceedings. Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, hinted the US President's appearance would make the G7 talks “challenging”.

But on Friday, Mr Macron announced a message of optimism with Mr Trudeau.

“We have to meet the challenges of our generation,” Mr Macron said in a tweet, along with a video clip of the leaders strolling together and talking in French which was widely shared online. Nearly 20 per cent of Canadians are French speakers.

Mr Macron continued: “[We are] Together around common values, to respond to issues related to terrorism, climate and economic cooperation.”

It will be Mr Macron’s first time attending the international meeting, as it also is for Theresa May, Mr Trump and Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian Prime Minister.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US have gathered to hold talks on terrorism, Syria, North Korea and the global economy.

“No doubt, this will be the most challenging G7 summit in years,” said Mr Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who chairs summits of EU leaders.

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn predicted “robust” discussions on trade and climate during the G7 talks.

All members of the G7 will be affected in some way by the economic fallout of Brexit – but it is of particular interest to the EU, a member of the group in its own right.

Mr Tusk said on Friday he was “positively surprised” by the US President’s support for the EU as it manages Britain's departure, adding that Mr Trump had agreed Brexit was just “an incident and not a threat”. In his 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump had heralded himself as “Mr Brexit”.

Mr Trump, who also dismissed man-made global warming as a “hoax” during his election campaign, is threatening to pull the US out of a key climate deal clinched in Paris in 2015.

There is also concern among the leaders about President Trump’s commitment to Nato’s Article 5, which states that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all. European diplomats fear any deviation from this could be interpreted by Russia as a green light to aggressive behaviour.

Russia was expelled from what was then the G8 group of industrialised nations after it annexed Crimea and interfered in the Ukrainian crisis.

Another key issue facing the summit is the refugee crisis. Sicily was chosen as a venue because of its proximity to Libya, which has become an epicentre of human trafficking.

More than half a million refugees, most from sub-Saharan Africa, have reached Italy by boat since 2014.

Italy is eager for rich nations to do much more to help develop Africa's economy and make it more appealing for youngsters to stay in their home countries.

The leaders of Tunisia, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria and Kenya will join the discussions on Saturday to say what should be done to encourage investment and innovation on their continent.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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