As economic and political head winds gather across the globe, leaders of the world's major powers are bracing themselves for a different kind of turbulent force: President Donald Trump.

The American president, who now has a track record of crashing into global forums with a torrent of tweets, complaints and bombast, arrived on Saturday in Biarritz, France for the Group of Seven summit. He comes bearing more grievance than guidance for global powers facing myriad challenges, including the threat of climate change and a potential global recession.

Those grievances are threatening to bubble to the surface and flout French President Emmanuel Macron's well-laid plans to pull off a successful summit free of the drama Trump often brings to multilateral gatherings. During an impromptu lunch with Macron shortly after his arrival, Trump sat stone-faced as Macron listed several topics he planned to discuss during the summit, from climate change to trade disputes.

While Trump used his brief public remarks to praise the "perfect" weather and predict that Macron and other world leaders "will accomplish a lot," privately some of his advisers were grumbling over the direction the summit was taking before it even officially began. Other US officials, however, tried to tamp down the idea tensions are rising, saying that talks so far have been going well.


For the past week, Trump has been laying the groundwork for what could become a combative G7.

People watch the sun set at Biarritz, France. Photo / AP
People watch the sun set at Biarritz, France. Photo / AP

In the days leading up to the summit, Trump engaged in an escalation of his trade war with China, blasted Denmark for not selling Greenland to the United States, declared the world to be in recession, harassed his central bank chairman, threatened tariffs against several of the G7 nations and called for G7 outcast Russia to be readmitted to the group. He has claimed America's allies mistreat the United States more than adversaries, slammed multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, blasted NATO countries for not meeting spending obligations, and threatened to send Islamic State fighters to Germany and France. Trump has attacked most of the leaders he will be meeting with during the weekend summit.

Trump's continued embrace of an "America First" approach - even in the face of growing signs of global economic turmoil - offers an indication that the various world powers will not be able to rely on the United States for steady leadership amid crisis, said Jon B. Alterman, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"There has been a complete realisation on the world stage that the US is not playing its traditional role, and may never again play the role it's played for 75 years," he said. "But it's unclear what role the United States will play, and what the consequences of that might be."

Trump has approached the looming economic slowdown with a mix of isolationism and frenetic energy. He has boasted that the US economy remains strong while other countries are struggling. He recently floated new tax cuts and stimulus to boost the economy, only to abandon the ideas within hours.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes President Donald Trump at the Biarritz lighthouse. Photo / AP
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes President Donald Trump at the Biarritz lighthouse. Photo / AP

"The world is in a recession right now," Trump told reporters earlier this month. "I don't think we're having a recession. We're doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich."

On Friday, his trade war with China worsened as Beijing imposed retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion in American goods and Trump responded with the extraordinary step of calling on US companies to stop doing business with China and calling Chinese President Xi Jinping an "enemy."

Markets tumbled following his tweets about China, with the Dow Jones industrial average losing more than 600 points, or 2.4 per cent.


After the markets closed, Trump took to Twitter to announce he would be increasing tariffs on Chinese goods.

During their lunch, Macron told Trump that the leaders needed to work on "how to decrease tensions and fix the situation in terms of trade. He also discussed the global economic slowdown, saying "we need some new tools to relaunch our economy."

Trump, who has a habit of blasting world leaders over Twitter and complimenting them in person, spoke positively about his relationship with Macron. "So far so good. The weather is perfect," he said. "I think we will accomplish a lot this weekend."

Shortly after the lunch, which US officials said Trump hadn't been expecting, senior administration officials said they were frustrated with how the French were handling the summit. Speaking on condition of anonymity to speak frankly, two US officials said they believed Macron was focusing on issues like climate change, gender inequality and development in Africa to cater to his own domestic politics.

Trump's administration wants more focus on trade and the economy, topics Trump is likely to bring up, the officials said.

One senior administration official offered a contrary view to that of his colleagues, saying that the talks so far had been positive and constructive. The differing views of aides suggested there is an uneasiness among administration officials about what the goals for the summit should be and how Trump will react when substantive discussions begin on Sunday.

Before Trump arrived, there were already signs that his views on trade have become increasingly unpopular among world leaders.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Biarritz, southwestern France. Photo / AP
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit in Biarritz, southwestern France. Photo / AP

European Council President Donald Tusk said Saturday that Trump's trade wars risked sending the global economy into recession.

"For me it's absolutely clear that if someone, for example … the United States and President Trump, uses tariffs and taxation as a political instrument, tool for some different political reasons, it means that this confrontation can be really risky for the whole world, including the EU," Tusk said. "This is why we need the G7."

Tusk also said the E.U. would be prepared to respond "in kind" if Trump follows through on threats to slap taxes on French wine in response to France's embrace of a digital services tax.

Trump will have an opportunity to show leadership at the G7 as the various nations - which represent more than half of the world's wealth - gather to chart a path forward on economic issues. The United States, Japan, Canada, Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom make up the G7.

The United States requested a special session Sunday focused on the state of the global economy, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. As the officials outlined Trump's agenda for the meeting, they indicated the president would spend much of his time touting his own economic record and bluntly criticizing several allies for their slowing growth. He has a long list of grievances he plans to air, the officials said.

Trump plans to again call out Germany for its trade practices, below-average defense spending and partnership with Russia on a gas pipeline, one official said. He will take on France for seeking to impose a "highly discriminatory" digital service tax that targets US companies, another official said.

Over the course of two days, Trump will hold bilateral meetings with five of the G7 leaders and attend several working sessions on issues ranging from global development to gender equality and the environment, officials said. He will hold a news conference on Monday before returning to the United States.

At last year's G7 in Canada, Trump signed the official joint communique only to dramatically withdraw his endorsement via tweet after watching Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak out against US tariffs during a news conference. Hours after signing the agreement, Trump was blasting Trudeau on Twitter as "dishonest and weak" and top administration officials were attacking the summit host with stark language.

The Trump Twitter onslaught is a familiar one now to wary European leaders, many of whom were looking ahead to the summit with apprehension. Macron has already said he will not pursue a joint communique this year, describing the tradition as "pointless" given Trump's combative approach.

From left: Britain's PM Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and President of the European Council Donald Tusk. Photo / AP
From left: Britain's PM Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and President of the European Council Donald Tusk. Photo / AP

Annual gatherings of world leaders like the G7 have historically served as venues for international negotiations and agreement on how to face down concerns about the global economy.

On November 15, 2008, during President George W. Bush's final weeks in office, world leaders from the Group of 20 met in Washington and professed a unified commitment to address the financial crisis. "We are determined to enhance our cooperation and work together to restore global growth and achieve needed reforms in the world financial system," they said in the joint statement.

Their declaration was more than symbolic, as it reflected a coordinated commitment to take aggressive and at times politically unpopular moves to prevent the crisis from spiraling out of control.

Some of the leaders meeting here are facing tensions or turmoil at home that could help shape the dialogue this weekend.

Britain is paralysed by its efforts to pull out of the European Union, facing a ticking clock to an October 31 exit date with no clear plan to ease what could be a painful rupture. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been friendly with the White House in the past, but Trump could demand a steep price for a trade deal, which is a top British priority. The White House has asked its European allies to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and team up against Tehran, something Britain so far has refused to do.

Macron warned Johnson against bowing down before Washington, telling reporters on Wednesday that Britain risked "a historic vassalisation" if it became the "junior partner of the United States."

In Italy, meanwhile, the government fell earlier this week after the anti-immigration junior partner pulled the plug on the coalition. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will come to the summit, but as a caretaker with an uncertain future after submitting his resignation on Tuesday. He presides over a country that has become riven with anti-immigration anger stoked by the leader of the League Party, Matteo Salvini, who has copied pages from Trump's playbook to blame migrants for much of his country's economic woes.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel - who has been the most powerful European bulwark against Trump in years past - is herself a somewhat depleted force, counting down the time until her exit from office in 2021 at the latest. She too has been fighting an anti-immigration party at home, the far-right Alternative for Germany.

Enter Trump, who has spent much of the last week in a public feud with Denmark over that country's refusal to sell Greenland to the United States. Trump took to Twitter to cancel his upcoming visit to Denmark, and later said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had made "nasty" comments in rejecting his proposal. He also complained about how the United States "protect(s) Europe" and gets little in return.

"Every time President Trump comes to Europe. we notice an increased Twitter activity, and not always, I would say, EU-friendly," a senior EU official said, speaking under ground rules of anonymity to discuss European strategy ahead of the summit. "This is also the case this time around. So we are concerned."

The official ticked down a list of disputes: on trade, on Iran, on climate, even on the basic question of whether Russia should be present at the table at the summit after its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Trump has called for Russia - which was expelled from the G7 in 2014 - to be allowed back into the group.

The president has been isolated on that issue, one of several where the G7 is increasingly breaking up along familiar lines, said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"What I think we're starting to see is the institutionalisation of what I now call the six plus one, which is the six other countries and the United States," she said. "What we're seeing, I think, is the institutionalization of America alone."

Macron has tried to limit some of the disagreement, by organizing the G7 around fighting inequality. He has included some ideas related to gender equality and global development that Trump has previously supported. At previous global summits, Trump has enthusiastically embraced the development projects backed by his daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, using the opportunity to grant her a platform with world leaders.

And some world leaders have learned to dismiss much of Trump's inflammatory tweeting as just "venting" that does not ultimately lead to action, said John Kirton, director of the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.

For example, while Trump pulled his endorsement of the joint communique after last year's G7 in Charlevoix, Canada, the U.S. government largely complied with the themes that the president originally signed on to, according to a report by Kirton that tracked compliance with the summit's commitments.

"This suggests that Donald Trump's post-summit tweet disavowing the Charlevoix communique he had just accepted had no impact on the summit's subsequent results," the report found.

This year, however, major differences could emerge on a range of issues that include the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, protests in Hong Kong and counterterrorism.

One thing that could restrain Trump's disruptive streak: self-interest. The United States will be hosting the G7 next year, just months before Trump is scheduled to face voters again.

"He knows that if he makes Macron's success a failure, it'll be payback time at home in the USA when he's much closer to the election," Kirton said. "That's great incentive for him to be accommodating at Biarritz."