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Usually Orchestrated G-7 Summit, Has Its Fair Share Of Surprises


This morning we're waiting for President Trump to give a press conference. He's in France with fellow world leaders for the G-7 summit, and the president has already made news of a sort this morning. He was at a bilateral meeting with the leader of Egypt. And at some point, he started talking about the China trade dispute.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have great respect for the fact that China called. They want to make a deal. I have great respect. And I have great respect for President Xi. And I think we're going to have a deal because now we're dealing on proper terms. They understand, and we understand. But that's a great thing that happened. And they want to get something done. Now, maybe it won't get done, but this is the first time I've seen them where they really do want to make a deal. And I think that's a very positive step.

KING: NPR's Frank Langfitt is in Biarritz, France, where the summit is happening. Hi, Frank.


KING: So during the summit, the president has gone back and forth on whether he's putting more tariffs on China, on where things stand with China. And now he says China wants to make a deal. Where do things stand right now?

LANGFITT: Well, he seems to be responding to words from the top trade negotiator in China overnight - or, I guess, this morning in China, saying he wants to resolve the trade dispute and is against escalation. But we don't know that there's much more to it than that. This came at, I think, a tech conference down in Chongqing in southwestern China. Certainly, Trump said - he says we're in a stronger position now to do a deal than ever. And certainly, here at the G-7, you know, with the economies of Germany and the United Kingdom not doing very well...

KING: Yeah.

LANGFITT: ...They would like to see some kind of deal. And Angela Merkel today, the chancellor of Germany, with President Trump, said it was in everybody's interest to get a deal with - the U.S. to get a deal with China. On the other hand, you know, you want to take these things with a grain of salt. These are deep and fundamental differences between the two economies in terms of trade, in terms of access to markets. And so it's still far too early to say that we're likely to see any breakthrough anytime soon.

KING: OK. So we're waiting on more news on China. It will be forthcoming, we're almost certain. Let's go back to the weekend because there was this really interesting unannounced visit from Iran's foreign minister. France invited Mohammad Javad Zarif to talk about Iran's nuclear program with French officials. Now, President Trump has been having a hard time with Iran. How did he react to Javad Zarif being there?

LANGFITT: Well, it was really interesting. He said that President Macron did run it by him. We think this happened yesterday. We think it might have happened at an impromptu lunch, where President Trump did not look very happy. This may be the reason he didn't look happy.

But he's not, you know - he's come to these other - he comes to these other multilateral organization meetings, and he will sometimes throw a fit. He's not doing that now. He's saying he's fine with this. He knew about it. But he's not ready to talk to the Iranians.

So we also don't know how far President Macron got with the Iranians or whether there was any progress made there to kind of reduce the tension, particularly between the United States and Iran.

KING: OK. And then looking forward, the summit, of course, is happening as these massive fires are burning in the Amazon. We know the leaders of the G-7 are expected to talk about that. What do you think we'll hear today?

LANGFITT: I think there is going to be a press conference very soon. And we know that Macron is hoping there'll be an agreement to provide tech and financial assistance. The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, is already offering more than $10 million with reforestation. But I'll tell you one thing that was kind of strange today. President Trump, according to White House reporters, was not in the room for the climate summit and then was asked about it in his conversation with Angela Merkel. And he said, we're having it in a little while. He didn't appear to hear when a reporter told him it had actually just happened.

So we know that President Trump disagrees with many members here about climate change and, of course, pulled the U.S. out of the climate accord. We just don't know why he was a no-show, especially on an issue that, right now, is galvanizing attention, you know, all over the world.

KING: It's a huge one, yeah. NPR's Frank Langfitt in Biarritz, France. Thanks, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.