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French press review 8 June 2018

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What will happen at today's G7 summit, likely to be dominated by various US disengagements from multilateral deals, positions and institutions? And will a proposed French law against "fake news" actually make it any safer to read this press review?


The 2018 summit of the leaders of seven of the world's richest economies kicks off later today in the Canadian town of Charlevoix.

Le Monde says it's going to be a dogpile, with Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Japan and the UK jumping on public enemy number one, US President Donald Trump.

No previous G7 meeting has ever been convened under such divisive conditions, according to the centrist paper.

There's the recently declared tarrifs declared by Trump on countries that are supposed to be the US's allies. The problem of global warming which Trump sees as an effort by his wimpish counterparts to damage US industrial development. Not to mention the recent decision by Washington to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

The United States have never been more isolated, says Le Monde, turning this G7 into a de facto G6 + 1, everyone else plus Trump. Wrong, says Larry Kudlow, Director of the US National Economic Council, this is going to be a G1 + 6.

In one sense it's not a big deal, since the G7 is not a decision-making body. But the atmosphere this time in Canada promises to be glacial. And it's all the fault of the big guy from America.

America was on the way off the world stage before Trump

Left-leaning Libération puts Trump on the cover, describing him as a "boulet," which can be variously translated as "ball and chain", "millstone", "dope", "numbskull", "dimwit", "drag". Whatever it means, it ain't flattering. And you don't want one spoiling your fancy nine-course gala dinner.

Libé adds Trump's criticism of the United Nations, his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, to his other unpopular unilateral decisions during his 16 months in the White House.

Libé says the atmosphere at the G7 is likely to be so bad that it may prove impossible to agree on the wording of the traditional end-of-summit communiqué.

An American analyst says US hostility to multilateralism is a populist stance. And the problem is that popular movements can't stand alternative centres of powers which are outside the control of national government. Trump, says the analyst, has now decided that bodies like Nato, the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation are damaging US national interests, even though the United States was among the enthusiastic founders of all three institutions.

But we're wrong to blame Trump. The French ambassador at the UN, François Delattre, says America is going through a period of distrust of the external world, a movement which was already visible in Barack Obama's refusal to engage seriously in Syria and which will probably continue beyond the end of the current administration.

Which opens the door to China, already hugely influential economically, to take over the job of leading the multilateral system which America wants to leave.

How good is the proposed French law against fake news?

Which brings us to French efforts to legislate against "fake news" - those stories which spread like wildfire on the internet and have all the crucial characteristics of good journalism, interesting, pertinent, surprising, except that they are completely untrue.

This is the top story in right-wing paper Le Figaro.

Yesterday, the French parliament began discussing a law which would make "the manipulation of informantion" illegal.

And not everyone is gruntled.

The press and the hard-left followers of Jean-Luc Mélenchon are worried about the impact of the proposed legislation on freedom of expression. The government bill faces over 200 amendments.

The right-wing Republicans party sees the bill as an effort to establish the French equivalent of George Orwell's "thought police".

The communists fear a law which will create the idea of a single official truth.

Le Figaro notes that this significant piece of legislation has been slipped into the parliamentary diary between a bill banning the use of mobile phones in French schools and another forbidding the suburban passtime of rodeo riding on motor scooters.