Johnson seeks to push Trump at fractious G7

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US President Donald Trump (R) and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak before a working breakfast at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France on Sunday. -AFP

BIARRITZ, FRANCE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Sunday seek to persuade President Donald Trump to offer flexibility on trade and also win concessions from the EU on Brexit, at a G7 summit hosted by France marked by stark divisions.

Johnson was to hold his long-awaited first face-to-face meeting as premier with Trump in the southern French resort of Biarritz and also talk with EU Council President Donald Tusk after a bitter verbal spat the day earlier.

Host President Emmanuel Macron wants to make the three-day meeting of the Group of Seven nations that started Saturday, an example for international forums but the first day was marked by EU leaders rounding on Trump on trade.

In a radical break from previous meetings of the elite club, there is to be no final statement haggled over in late night talks. Macron also invited several world leaders from outside the G7 such as India's Narendra Modi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Basque resort of Biarritz, which at this time of year usually teems with surfers, sunbathers and tourists, has been turned into a fortress for the event with over 13,000 police on duty and its gleaming beaches out of bounds to the public.

An anti-capitalism demonstration in nearby Bayonne turned ugly Saturday when the crowd of several hundred tried to get through police barricades and was repelled with water cannon and tear gas.

On Sunday, all eyes will be on Johnson as he makes his biggest international appearance since taking office in July on a pledge to deliver Britain's exit from the European Union and return the self confidence of his nation.

In the lead-up to the talks, Johnson appeared at pains to distance himself from Trump after facing accusations in the past of being too cozy with the American leader.

He urged Trump to remove the "considerable barriers" for UK companies seeking to export to the American market, saying they risked impeding a free-trade deal after Brexit. -AFP


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