US President Donald Trump arrived in Sicily from Brussels on Thursday ahead of a two-day Group of Seven summit at which other leaders are expected to pressure him to soften his stance on trade and climate change.
The G7 meeting in the resort town of Taormina is the last leg of a nine-day tour by Trump of the Middle East and Europe - his first foreign trip since taking office in January.
After visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Trump met Pope Francis in Rome on Wednesday and held talks on Thursday with the heads of European Union institutions and the NATO military alliance in Brussels.
His plane landed in the Sigonella military airbase. He was due to be flown to Taormina by helicopter.
At Taromina, the G7 leaders will be tackling a whole range of topics on Friday and Saturday, “with fighting terrorism to be on the top of the agenda,” according to Gary D. Cohn, the US president's chief adviser on economic affairs.
Cohn was speaking to reporters accompanying the president on board Air Force 1 on the way from Brussels.
“The president has already met with all of the G7 leaders one-on-one. He actually met with the last one today, French President Emmanuel Macron, so he’s got a personal relationship with all the G7 leaders. So the G7 is set up to be more of an ad-hoc session where the leaders get together and they listen and talk to each other. There is a formal agenda,” he said.
The first session on Friday will be on foreign policy and the role of the G7, including terrorism and Syria.
The second session will also be on foreign policy, including Libya, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan and cyber security.
The third session will focus on global issues, including global economy, trade, climate, innovation and energy.
During Saturday’s morning session, Italy, as the host country has invited an outreach region – Africa, and some of the small nations of Africa will be represented at the session.
President Trump will be seated between the leaders of two African nations - Niger and Tunisia. The discussion is expected to focus on emerging markets and other pertinent issues.
The second session will be on global issues, including migration, food security and gender.
The third and final session on Saturday, will feature a closed meeting where just the seven heads of state will be present for a free exchange of views, with no official transcript.
Cohn touched on the big topics. “Obviously we’ve been sort of talking about the big topics as we’ve been on the trip. A lot is going to come up on terrorism. Terrorism is going to be a very big topic. It’s going to lead off. Obviously, UK premier Theresa May and the president are going to have a lot to say about terrorism, terrorism financing, starting out with our trip in the Middle East, Israel, where it can continue on that theme.”
“As you know, Rex Tillerson has been working on an agreement out of the Middle East to put together funding to fight terrorism, so we’re going to continue to push that with the G7 countries. It would be great to get the Middle Eastern countries, the G7 countries, then potentially G20 countries that aren’t part of G7 and the Middle East, onto a terrorism agreement so we can get all the major countries funding to fight terrorism.”
“We’re going to go into cyber, which is part of the same terrorism game, just a different way to play it,” said Cohn.
“It’s going to lead into immigration-migration, because that’s a big issue. Italy’s the host country...They’re going to talk about migration, what’s going on from Libya to Europe, what’s going on in other parts of Europe and the migration from Italy up to the north. Every country in Europe has a migration issue, they have an employment issue.”
“Theresa May made a big statement in the NATO conference today that they’re leaving Europe but they’re not leaving the European community. She went out of her way to talk about she’s part of the European defense forces and they’re going to be mutually aligned with Europe on many, many things. And economic growth are inextricably interchanged.”
Growth and trade
“Europe as a whole, the G7 as a whole, when you look at GDP and you look at growth, the US is the leading growth engine of the G7. And we’re not that happy about where we are on growth. The president ran on a platform of more economic growth, more jobs, better recovery, but we are the shining light when you look at the other countries. We’ve got countries in the G7 with GDP as low as sort of a half a percent. So there’s going to be a large discussion on stimulating economic growth, which is going to lead us to trade.”
“Trade is going to be a big topic. We are going to continue to fight for what we believe is right, which is free, open and fair trade, which the president has been very clear on what that means. We will have a very robust discussion on trade and we will be talking about what free and open means. What the president means by free and open is, we will treat you the way you treat us, meaning if you don’t have barriers to trade or you don’t have tariffs, we won’t have tariffs. If you have tariffs, we should have tariffs. Our objective is not to create tariffs in the United States. Our objective is to get other countries that restrict our goods from going in to get rid of, to lower their tariffs down to where our levels are. That’s our objective is to level the playing field, flatten the playing field, and let it be fair for everyone to compete on a level playing field.”
“Climate will also come up – how climate affects trade, how climate affects manufacturing. The president has told you that he’s going to ultimately make a decision on Paris and climate when he gets back. He’s interested to hear what the G7 leaders have to say about climate. It will be a fairly robust discussion on that. We know that because we had it today with the French president, we had it with the Belgians, we had it with all the bilaterals we’ve had. Paris has come up so we know that that will come up some more in the discussions,” Cohn said.
- With inputs from Reuters
Trump: NATO must do more on terror, immigration, RussiaUS President Donald Trump used his first NATO summit on Thursday to urge the alliance to do more to tackle terrorism and immigration as well as Russia ... World News
Trump: King Salman is a wise man who wants ‘rapid’ improvementsUS President Donald Trump said that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is a “wise man” during both his visits to Jerusalem and Brussels, ... Gulf
Trump meets Pope Francis at Vatican in third leg of foreign tripUS President Donald Trump met Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday in a keenly-anticipated first face-to-face encounter between two world leaders ... World News
Trump says Iran driving Israel, Arab states closerUS President Donald Trump said on Monday that shared concern about Iran was driving Israel and many Arab states closer and demanded that Tehran ... Middle East