Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations will discuss global trade woes at their annual summit on Sunday, likely laying bare a yawning divide between US President Donald Trump and his Western allies.

The G7 gathering is taking place against a backdrop of growing worries about a global economic downturn and coincides with an era of international disunity across an array of issues that have strained decades-old allegiances.

Trump joined the leaders from France, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada in the French coastal resort of Biarritz for three days of talks that kicked off on Saturday with an ambitious agenda that includes the defence of democracy, gender equality, education and climate change.

The delegations had barely arrived before divergences were exposed, with senior US officials accusing the host, French President Emmanuel Macron, of looking “to fracture the G7” by focusing on “niche issues” rather than major global concerns.

France denied this, pointing to Sunday’s initial session covering the economy, trade and security – areas that used to draw easy consensus but are now sources of great friction.

Trump arrived in France just hours after escalating his trade war with China in a tit-for-tat battle between the world’s two largest economies that has spooked financial markets.

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