Meanwhile, the other leaders in attendance, many of whom no longer view the US President as the leader of the free world, did their best to navigate around him — and with some degree of success.
French President Emmanuel Macron was one such world leader — who, in an effort to salvage as much of the Iran nuclear deal as possible, invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend the summit.
Iran’s malign activity has been a repeat topic for decades. Previous G7 and G8 summits have included discussions about how to stop Iran’s destabilizing behavior — from their illegal nuclear program to support for terrorism, and more. This time, however, Iran was a part of the conversation.
At the summit, Macron took on a larger role in navigating this difficult balancing act. Acting as the mediator between the US and Iran, Macron attempted to build a French connection between the two countries.
And he did so very carefully. Knowing that Trump likes made-for-TV moments, he brought Zarif to the summit. While Zarif didn’t meet with Trump, his presence on the ground — in such close proximity to the President — made it easier for Macron to engage in shuttle diplomacy between the two leaders.
We also know that Trump prefers to rely on his perceived personal rapport with leaders like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin — rather than listening to or empowering his experts. So, even if Macron sets up a meeting, its success will depend on whether Trump does something different in terms of preparation and internal teamwork.
In the short term, though, because of Macron’s rapport with the Iranians, Trump may want to consider allowing Macron to serve as an intermediary — at least for now — while putting his team to work to figure out the best way forward.
His decision to walk back his ire against China after talks with world leaders may be a signal that he’s more willing to listen to their assessments on the benefits of resolving the trade war than he is the assessments of his home team.
G7 leaders’ efforts to change the President’s posture on our trade war with China — which inevitably impacts their economies, too — could open the door to more constructive talks, especially if other leaders are carrying the same message to Beijing and pressuring the Chinese to negotiate. There is strength in numbers, and a coordinated approach by other G7 leaders may yield at least a trade war truce in the short term.
Trump, however, shouldn’t have to be managed. He should be an active participant in moving issues forward and providing leadership where he can. To do so, he is going to have to take some cues from his peers and coordinate with other leaders — rather than insulting them or trying to bully them into submission.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated Emmanuel Macron’s position. He is the French President.