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G-7 Summit; North Korea Launches Two Mores Short-Range Missiles; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Treated for Pancreatic Cancer; President Trump Wants to Re-invite Russia to G-7; Amazon Wildfire; National Farmers Union: Trump Making Things Worse Not Better. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 24, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:27] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome.
We begin this hour with the high stakes G-7 summit and global turmoil. President Trump arriving in France this morning for the gathering of world leaders amid global disputes that are threatening unity between allies. Over the next three days, leaders will discuss everything from trade and economic issues to climate change and the ongoing tension with Iran and North Korea.
But before departing for the summit, President Trump set the stage for conflict by vowing to escalate a trade war with China and threatening to hit France with a tariff on wine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want them doing anything having to do with taxing unfairly our companies. Those are great American companies. And frankly, I don't want France going out and taxing our companies. Very unfair.
And if they do that, we'll be taxing their wine or doing something else. We'll be taxing their wine like they've never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CNN's senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown joins us now from southern France.
So Pam -- Trump and Macron have already met this morning over lunch. What more can you tell us about any further discussions and maybe even a comment or two in response to what the President is talking about threatening these tariffs on wine?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. It's interesting because just before leaving Washington, the President had those stern words for President Macron as saying that he will impose a tariff on French wine and perhaps other French goods in response to the digital tax. But today during the lunch between President Macron and President Trump, there was an exchange of pleasantries. The President seemed to put a positive spin on things, calling Macron his friend.
He didn't make mention of the digital tax at all, though he did sort of reference and hint at some of the disagreements that lie beneath the surface on some of these key issues that the G-7 is really all about. That would be, you know, climate change, on trade, on Iran.
So we'll have to wait and see what came out of that lunch. But here's what the two leaders said at the very beginning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We look forward to it, but we actually have a lot in common -- Emmanuel and I. We've been friends for a long time.
(INAUDIBLE) -- we go at it just a little bit, not very much. But we get along very well. We have a very good relationship, sort of I think I can say a special relationship.
We all remember the Eiffel Tower dinner. That was a very good beginning. And we have some really great things to talk about.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: We'll talk about the economy, global situation (ph), how to (INAUDIBLE) and fix the situation in terms of trade because I think if we cannot fix that situation, (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Now, one of the key issues for President Macron is climate change. He's been very focused on the wildfires in the Amazon. It's unclear though how receptive President Trump will be.
After all, last year during the G-7 he skipped the summit on climate. He is really coming into this weekend with the economy top of mind.
And we've learned from a White House official that the President spoke over the phone with the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday. The two leaders are expected to meet face-to-face sometime over the summit. Of course, there's a lot to discuss there as Brexit looms. Boris Johnson is looking for the support from President Trump. As it appears, the U.K. is headed towards a no-deal Brexit.
Now, tomorrow morning there is this economic summit that the President pushed for, and you can imagine that some of the G-7 leaders will be bringing up the trade war with China that escalated just yesterday with both sides slapping tariffs on one another.
Some of these leaders here believe that the President's trade war is contributing to the overall global economic slowdown. And sources I've been speaking with about what to expect from this G-7 summit, they're downplaying expectations saying don't expect anything ground breaking.
Back to you.
WHITFIELD: Right, and that being underscored by the tweet coming from the French president saying, you know, the G-7 has begun. "We may not accomplish everything we've set out to, but we'll do our best to be effective to ensure your security, create more jobs and fight the inequality that you are suffering."
So expectations low.
Pamela Brown -- thank you so much.
All right. Joining me right now: Jill Dougherty, global fellow for the Woodrow Wilson Center and former CNN bureau chief in Moscow; and Lynn Sweet Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times". Good to see you all, and Pam Brown still with us here.
[11:04:58] So Lynn -- the President, you know, is following a very similar routine for these meetings with global leaders. First he issues some sort of, you know, threat against them or their country before embarking on the trip. And then he sits down with them this weekend and at least for starters with Macron today says very nice things.
So what do you make of, you know, this kind of approach that the President has, even though his advisers have said, people in the White House have said he really doesn't want to be there right now?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, my analysis is that this approach means that he could be taken by the world leaders as very unstable. You don't know what is going to happen.
And when you talk about the economy, unpredictability is the enemy of business. That's an important point to remember as the Trump administration moves forward with its unpredictable economic policy and also bashing of the Fed chairman as if just the Fed alone could make an instant change in the U.S. economy.
And Jill -- you know, the President -- President Trump also at odds with the E.U. and other G-7 leaders over his support for inviting Russia back to the G-7 at the time, it was G-8 with Russia there. But the E.U. opposes that. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TUSK, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: First, the reasons why Russia was disinvited in 2014 are still valid.
Today I will try to convince my interlocutors that it would be better to invite Ukraine as a guest, of course, to the next G-7 meeting to hear the opinion of the new president. I talked with him about it two days ago, and I know he would be very interested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Jill -- he's talking of inviting, you know, Ukraine really because we're talking about in 2014 it was Russia's military intervention into Ukraine. So, in other words, if we're going to have Russia back, then how about Ukraine as well. So is there a little sarcasm there or is this a serious consideration?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it could be sarcasm. But Fredricka -- let's look at it from the Russian perspective. You have the American president once again holding out a carrot of something that ostensibly would be good for Russia -- getting back in the big boys game again.
And yet, I've been looking at the reaction of the Russian government spokespeople in the media, and it's fascinating. I mean what they -- the media has been calling the G-7 the -- is relics and impotent people. In other words "We don't need lousy G-7." I think there's a lot of anger about being excluded, you know, after Ukraine.
But also I don't think that they really trust that what President Trump said about bringing back Russia into the -- making it again the G-8 I don't think they really trust that because if you look at the statement by the spokesperson for the foreign ministry, she said if this is serious, let's have a formal, you know, legal proposal and take it off, as she put it, the social media sphere.
So they're not really, you know, buying this because I do believe that President Putin thinks that he could be hurt if he jumps on board and then it doesn't happen or President Trump doesn't follow through.
WHITFIELD: You know, Pam -- this is really a very prickly G-7 because when you look at the list of, you know, all of these industrialized nations, I mean, this president has insulted all of them except for maybe Italy as of recent.
So you know, earlier today there was a luncheon involving President Trump and the French President Macron. They talked a lot about, you know, maybe this is one accord in which they agree, you know, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
But talk to me about the dynamics of these potential upcoming dialogues when the President -- President Trump has already set the stage for such unease among these other G-7 nations?
BROWN: You're right. Several times since he has been president he has treated his allies like foes. You'll recall at the last G-7 it was very acrimonious. The President withdrew from the shared agreement from the countries. And so going into this, the President really is the outlier. He's sort of the wild card here.
I think these world leaders have come to expect that from President Trump. But there's still a lot of uncertainty about what can really be accomplished here, and we just saw that in the tweet from President Macron saying we're probably not going to accomplish everything we're setting out to.
Now Macron did lay out some key issues he wants to talk with, with President Trump. You mentioned Iran there. It is true that both countries want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran, but how to go about that, they have very different views. The President pulled out of the Iran deal, which much to the chagrin of France and other countries.
[11:10:05] And European officials have been looking for ways to get around the Iranian sanctions and to trade with Iran, which is something the U.S. doesn't like.
Of course there is climate change. That is something very top of mind of some of the world leaders here, particularly amid the wildfires in the Amazon.
That is also something that President Trump has made clear is not a priority for him. In fact, he's talked to aides behind the scenes saying that there's too much talk on the environment and oceans in the years past, and that was one of the reasons he didn't even want to attend this year.
But he is here, and he really wants to focus on the economy we're told, which should be a very interesting dynamic given the trade war with China and the concern among these other G-7 leaders about that.
WHITFIELD: Right, and you know -- Lynn, you know, so among the things that are to be discussed during this G-7, you know, climate change, gender equality, women's empowerment, world security, you know, global economy, really it's the global economy that piques the interest, you know, of President Trump.
And in that scope he is threatening to escalate the trade war with China, and he says he has the power, you know, to order U.S. companies to look for alternatives to China. Just take a listen just in case folks may have missed this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, in 1977, we had an act passed, the National Emergency Act. I have the absolute right to do that. We'll see how that goes, but I have the absolute right. 1977, check it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So on the issue of whether the President, you know, can order U.S. companies to stop doing business with China, he says you know, I hereby order you companies to stop doing business with China. What are the prospects of that? Where does that come?
SWEET: Well, that comes from the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. and President Trump could order an economic emergency, and that could -- could trigger sanction-like powers. The U.S. has used it against Iran.
but here's a few things to think about. This could be challenged I think legally as to what the emergency is. It isn't -- there is also the most important thing if he wants a jolt to the economy. This is not a short-term solution to what is happening right now in his beloved stock market and in the threat of a recession. You can't just have companies yank out.
Also, the core Republican Party principles is that the markets dictate that free United States businesses are able to make decisions what they want to do and where they want to do it. Imposing unilaterally a one-size fits-all claim and cure about where businesses and how they should do business in China also will have an enormous pushback from within his own Republican business base.
So he has some tools in his economic quiver to pull out. If he does this one, he is creating I suppose his favorite place to be parked at, controversy as to whether or not he's taking the right approach to deal with China. And if the impact is going to hurt consumers more here than anywhere else.
WHITFIELD: And Pamela -- from a White House standpoint, what are the hopes of the potential outcomes for this weekend? Because while there is a calendar of events, there are, you know, photo ops. There are lunches. There are dinners.
We all know that it's usually the sideline meetings that could produce, you know, the most -- what's the potential here? Who is the President most anxious to perhaps meet with, or what is he hoping for?
BROWN: Well, certainly President Macron who he had lunch with, he could be meeting with him again. And Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister of the U.K. The President has lavished praise on him. Has been speaking fondly of him for a while. He said, that, you know, he's kind of a kindred spirit like he is. He's a different kind of guy like he is.
So that is certainly someone that he's looking forward to talk with. He spoke to him on Friday to talk about some trade issues and foreign policy issues
But in terms of what concrete is going to come out of this weekend, officials really are sort of downplaying that. The reason why President Trump had to be persuaded to come here -- and he was persuaded. He didn't want to come. He had been grousing to his hades behind the scenes saying what's the point, this is a waste of time.
Aides persuaded it would be a good opportunity for him to come and tout his accomplishments and boast about the U.S. economy and try to help these other countries with their economies. Of course there is this global economic slowdown, and the President wanted to come here today, talk to some of these leaders and try to push some of the things he's done in the U.S. -- deregulation and tax reform.
Of course there are warning signs of a recession in the U.S., and there is also concerns globally that the President's trade war with China could turn into a problem on the economic scale. And there's looming auto tariffs on European imports. There's deadlines coming up in just a couple of months so there's a lot of uncertain there.
[11:15:09] But as we know, the President puts all the blame on the Fed chair Jerome Powell.
WHITFIELD: Yes. All right.
Well, there's a lot there, and there is potential in which to bear fruit.
All right. Pam Brown, Jill Dougherty, Lynn Sweet -- thanks a lot.
SWEET: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, North Korea launches yet another round of missiles, now there are questions surrounding the timing of this. How will world leaders respond?
Plus, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg treated for pancreatic cancer again. Details coming up.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
North Korea now launching more missiles. It fired two short-range missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. It's the ninth round of launches since May.
President Trump downplayed the recent round of short-range missile tests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I think that we have a very good relationship. We'll see what happens. That could always change, but we'll see what happens.
[11:19:55] Kim Jong-un has been, you know, pretty straight with me, I think, and we're going to see what's going on. We're going to see what's happening.
He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short-range missiles. We'll see what happens. Many nations test those missiles. We tested a very big one the other day, as you probably noticed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. I want to discuss this now with former U.S. special representative for North Korean policy -- Joseph Yun. He is now a CNN global affairs analyst. Good to see you.
So your initial reaction to the President's demeanor and this missile testing now happening while the G-7 is meeting?
JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think President Trump is in complete denial that these missiles mean nothing. They mean a lot.
And I do think, you know, you heard President Trump saying, you know, he's gotten love letters. This is all ok. But it is not ok. He's threatening to neighbors and our allies like South Korea and Japan. I think it speaks volumes about the fact that three meetings between President Trump and Kim Jong-un has led to nothing substantive so far. So I'm quite concerned. What, you know, these three meetings have done is rather they have empowered Kim Jong-un. He's more confident.
WHITFIELD: So you almost feel like --
YUN: He has more weapons.
WHITFIELD: So you feel like this downplaying nature coming from the President of the United States actually further instigates, if not provokes North Korea?
YUN: Absolutely. They're now more confident, and also, you know, this has been compounded by President Trump's mismanagement of our relations with China, which is a big factor in everything that North Korea does. And more than that, the division President Trump has done nothing to provide some kind of reconciliation between a nasty fight between Japan and South Korea.
So we are really mismanaging this issue, and I worry about what is happening. And this really shows Kim Jong-un is taking advantage. And I think we will see in the coming months especially as President Trump goes into his re-election mode -- further problems, further bigger provocations from North Korea.
WHITFIELD: So speaking of nasty fight, how about the nasty words? You're talking, you know, about Pyongyang making a scathing attack yesterday against the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling him a "die hard toxin" after Pompeo said the U.S. would continue tough sanctions against North Korea.
So how does this lay the groundwork for any other potential talks or even, you know, meeting that the President, you know, talks about -- if we have another meeting, that, too would be optimal.
YUN: Really? I mean these are fighting words, you know. The fact that the foreign minister of North Korea would call his own counterpart -- both chief negotiators, what, toxic, impudent -- these are fighting words that speaks again the kind of divorce between President Trump and his own team.
Somehow to imagine for President Trump that he can resolve this issue by himself with Kim Jong-un is completely playing into hands of Kim Jong-un, and we've got to be worried about that.
WHITFIELD: Joseph Yun -- we'll leave it there. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, the U.S. Supreme Court announces that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has undergone treatment for pancreatic cancer. Her prognosis next. [11:23:51] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
There seems to be no slowing down U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, not even after this week's stunning news of completing three weeks of treatment for pancreatic cancer. The 86-year-old remains on schedule for a speaking engagement in Buffalo, New York next week and she was even seen taking in the Broadway showing of "Moulin Rouge" on Thursday.
Meantime, President Trump sent his prayers to Justice Ginsburg ahead of his departure for the G-7 summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I hope she does really well. And our thoughts and prayers are with her. It's a very serious situation. I'm hoping she's going to be fine. She's pulled through a lot. She's strong, very tough, but we wish her well, very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Ariane De Vogue has more on Justice Ginsburg's treatment.
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: The Supreme Court announced that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86 has completed radiation therapy for a tumor on her pancreas. The hospital called it a localized malignant tumor that was first detected on July 31st. Treatment began on August 5th.
The court said in a statement the tumor was treated definitively. And there was no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body.
She canceled her annual vacation, but she plans to continue with her speaking events. Monday she will be in Buffalo, New York.
During the treatment she appeared at an event in New York where she met the actress Kate McKinnon who plays her on "Saturday Night Live". And Thursday night she went to "Moulin Rouge" on Broadway.
This is her fourth bout of cancer over the years. She had colon cancer in 1999. In 2009 early pancreatic cancer. She also had a heart procedure and cancer in the lung last year.
She spoke about her plans to stay on the court earlier this summer. Take a listen.
JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: As long as I can do it full steam, and that means at my age 86, you have to take it year by year.
DE VOGUE: Ginsburg added that she expects to be ok next term and after that she'll just have to see.
Ariane de Vogue, CNN -- Washington.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, President Trump lashing out at U.S. allies. But is that the best strategy going forward? How world leaders view the President next.
[11:29:57] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: As President Trump arrives in France today for a meeting of the G-7 leaders, expectations are already being tempered as to whether or not anything meaningful will come out of the three-day talks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUSK: Today it would be especially urgent and essential to built our unity around the following challenges. First, the difference of liberal democracy, rule of law and human rights, in particular in the context of the revival of nationalisms and new form of authoritarianism as well as threats coming from the development of digital technologies, meddling in elections, (INAUDIBLE), using artificial intelligence against citizens and their freedoms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Trump arriving this morning already set the stage for some rather awkward exchanges by openly criticizing German economic policy this past week, and then announcing a possible tax on French wine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: I don't want them doing anything having to do with taxing unfairly our companies. Those are great American companies. And frankly, I don't want France going out and taxing our companies. Very unfair, and if they do that, we'll be taxing their wine or doing something else. We'll be taxing their wine like they've never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:35:03] WHITFIELD: Host leader Emmanuel Macron anticipating the discord, already announced that there would be no group communique at the end of the summit. The first time the G-7 has ever done that.
Joining me right now, CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson and Brett Bruin, the former director of Global Engagement in the Obama White House. Good to see you both.
All right. So Nic -- you first. The President reportedly, you know, asked why he was even going to this. You know, openly, you know, criticize some of the leaders ahead sf arriving there. So how is he being received then? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, you know, everyone wants something from President Trump. He's the most powerful leader of this group of seven leaders here.
And you know, Boris Johnson, the British -- new British Prime Minister wants to get a strong statement from President Trump on a future trade deal post-Brexit. He wants it because he might have elections at home. And he also wanted to send a message to the European union.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan has just recently won elections, but he wants to improve the relationship with the United States. Certainly he doesn't want to see tariffs on cars and car parts. So what can he do to improve that relationship?
So whenever the leaders come to the table here and they are and they will and the issue will be the big central one here -- the global economy and how the United States is damaging it President Trump has taken into a trade war with China. They will be careful with their language because they know that this is a president who's quite prepared to get up and leave.
But that doesn't actually help solve the problems, but this is at the back of everyone's minds. They still -- most of them still want something from President Trump, even if it's only not to get the world into a worse economic situation.
WHITFIELD: And Brett, the President of the United States has made it clear he would like to see Russia, you know, rejoin this group making it the G-8 again, but the E.U. president Donald Tusk laid out things in this manner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUSK: One year ago in Canada, President Trump suggested re-inviting Russia to G-7 stating openly that Crimea's annexation by Russia was partially justified and that we should accept the fact. Under no condition can we agree with this logic.
Today I will try to convince my interlocuters that it would be better to invite Ukraine as a guest, of course, to the next G-7 meeting to hear the opinion of the new president. I talked with him about it two days ago, and I know he would be very interested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Brett, is the President wasting his time on this? I mean did he just throw that out there just to humor, you know, other members of the G-7. Or does he -- does he really think that he's going to spend some time trying to persuade any of the other nations to, you know, have open arms for Russia again?
BRETT BRUIN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: I think there is very little appetite amongst G-7 members to re-invite Russia into the fold. Russia's taken no steps that -- whether it's on Crimea or for that matter on a host of other issues that indicate they've reformed their ways. And I was at the White House when we kicked Russia out of the G-7, and it was precisely because they violated one of the most fundamental rules of international law. You don't invade other countries.
And I think accepting Russia's occupation of Crimea would violate that rule and would open up a whole hornet's nest of other problems.
WHITFIELD: And Nic, you know, the President, you know, speaks his mind whether it's in front of the cameras or whether he's, you know, tweeting it. And you know, after in one respect saying he's backing off tariffs on China and then, you know, says he's unleashing again. How is that being received in that audience?
ROBERTSON: Look -- I mean I think no one knows how to deal with President Trump. It is a six plus one here -- United States under President Trump is an outlier on so many of the big issues -- climate change, on trade.
So, you know, It's a very, very difficult mix, but I think what you're hearing here and you played a little bit of it before from Donald Tusk, and we've heard it on a couple of occasions already today from Emmanuel Macron, and we hear this as well from other analysts, from other foreign policy experts saying, look, the real issue here is to remind everyone the common values. And the common values here at the G-7 are that these are nations founded in democracy.
[11:39:56] These are democratic countries, and that's what globally is under threat here -- be it from China, be it from Russia, be it from North Korea, be it from Iran, and these are the commonalities.
So however irascible President Trump is, however unpredictable he is, however difficult to deal with he is, the United States is still a democracy, and it is part of a club of democracies. So rather than fight and pull ourselves apart, it's make these democracies stronger, and ensure they can endure because these are the values that all of us, more than a billion others that live in advanced democracies actually value, actually cherish, and that's how we see our futures.
WHITFIELD: And even if, you know, there isn't a communique that comes out or even that, you know, as soon as your leaders these leaders rent aren't verbalizing, it's fun to look at these images that are coming in just to read the body language of people sitting down at lunch and then dinner's coming up soon, just to see, you know, what kind of chatting is happening or not amongst them.
Again another picture just moments ago, class pictures. At least you see Macron there kind of laughing it up and Boris Johnson as well.
All right, Nic Robertson, Brett bruin, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
All right. Also, as fires burn out of control in the Amazon, international concern is growing for the largest rainforest on the planet. How Brazil is trying it get the fires under control.
[11:41:21] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
International pressure is growing on Brazil to combat the raging Amazon fires, wildfires, and the clock is ticking. The country's space agency says portions of the rainforest are burning at a record rate, more than the size of a soccer field per minute. The crisis is sparking protests in Brazil and around the world as satellite images show smoke from the fires creeping across Brazil and spilling into neighboring countries.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is joining us live. So Nick -- you have been on the highway heading throughout the Amazon, what have you been seeing?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to say, it is startling when you take this drive in towards the heart of the Amazon here. Poor communication as you can see.
You'll see moving past me endless trucks lining the side of the roads in what used to be jungle decades ago, leveled, turned into farmland. That's where we've seen some of the fires.
In fact, an official we were just speaking to saying, in fact, it's at night they say when some of the people run out and set fire to the forest areas to clear it so they can build farmland here.
This is about money, local livelihoods. That's what President Jair Bolsonaro has been about. He's been saying people living here should have a chance to use the resources. That's where the destruction comes from.
And there are many who say that the fires we've been seeing this summer, a bit chilly and dry season, yes, there are fires are worse because of acts of human intervention. 85 percent up on last year say scientists.
Now, as you will see here down the road we've traveled, the devastation is intermittent occasionally. It's worse further down the highway here certainly. And we've seen ourselves a flash fire by the side of the highway to here.
The international pressure is certainly growing on Jair Bolsonaro. The E.U. said -- another layer -- trade deal, the Germans very critical, the French accusing Bolsonaro of lying. The Finnish say they might avoid Brazilian beef. What's extraordinary is what used to be jungle is now cow farmland, for beef really.
Wherever you go there seems to be just cattle grazing in what used to be jungle. It's startling the change that must have come through here. They continue. It's being encouraged by the Brazilian government. They're sending in the army they say and temporary firefighters to try and get this under control. President Donald Trump has offered American help.
The broad question we face is whether or not the rain will come in and slow the pace of the fires. We're in one banana estate which has the worst number of fires in this particularly bad season. And the question is whether they can get it under control before unchangeable irreversible damage is done to the Amazon.
Back to you.
WHITFIELD: Wow, dramatic situation. Thank you so much, Nick Paton Walsh.
All right. Still ahead, the National Farmers Union says Trump's trade war with China is making things worse, not better.
We'll talk with the head of that union, a third generation farmer next.
[11:48:14] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. As President Trump arrives at the G-7 summit in France, a cloud of economic uncertainty follows hmm. Sighs of a global economic slowdown are every where. In just yesterday the trade war between the U.S. and China erupted again, when China said it would put new tariffs on $375 billion of U.S. goods.
China even canceling all purchases of U.S. agricultural products. China is the fourth largest export market.
Trump's reply on Twitter telling U.S. companies not to do business with China sent the Dow Jones plunging more than 600 points. And caught in the middle of this trade war are U.S. farmers. President Trump says they understand why this has to happen.
Well, Roger Johnson is the President of the National Farmers Union and a third generation farmer. Good to see you. You said on Friday that new tariffs on China only make matters worse. So how will this add to the U.S. farmers suffering in your view?
ROGER JOHNSON, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: Well, let's start by understanding that net farm income in the U.S. Is half of what it was six years ago. So there's a lot of financial stress out there right now.
Farm debt levels are as high as they have been since the early 1980s, the last time we had a really major agricultural recession. So there's a lot of strain out there right now.
China has been a major market. It's been the fastest growing market for U.S. agriculture over the last 20-plus years. And so that's not to say that we don't have issues with China. Of course we have issues with China.
But the disagreement that we have with the President is how he's prosecuting this trade war with China. Instead of bringing the rest of the world together to hold China accountable, it seems like we've decided it better to offend the rest of the world first and then take on China all by ourselves. And that uncertainty does a lot of damage to agricultural markets. WHITFIELD: So then what's your message to the President? Because
just, you know, Just last night he was like, you know, Dow down 600 points, that's nothing being look how much money has been made. And he says, he has said just within the past week and a half that, you know, subsidies sent to U.S. farmers has certainly helped, you know, to make up for the losses and that it's China that is suffering the most.
JOHNSON: Well, I don't know how much China is suffering. That's really not for me it decide. And it is true that the President has made money available to farmers in the form of subsidies to compensate for the damage they've received at the hands of this administration and the trade wars.
But farmers would much rather have a strong, dependable market and a fair price so that they can sell into that market as opposed to having the market sort of destroyed in front of them. And then being, you know, sort of degraded to sort of asking for government handouts to compensate for that loss. That is going to do a lot of political damage to the standing of farmers as well.
As the public comes to understand the amount of these subsidies that are going to farmers, some of them to very large ones and that doesn't go over very well with the American public.
[11:55:04] WHITFIELD: You're a third generation farmer. We had farmers that were on the air this weekend who talked about their worries about if there's a farm left after all this to hand down to the next generation, to their sons and daughters. Or the other worry is a number of their sons and daughters are so turned off by all of this that they really don't want anything to do with the farming industry.
So what has been your observation and experience?
JOHNSON: Those are really, really good points. This fundamentally gets to an issue of reputation. Agriculture -- farmers have spent millions -- tens of millions of dollars in the last couple of decades building markets overseas, not just in China but all over the world.
And we are now in a position where we're just recoiling from all this disruption that's taken place as a result of actions from this administration. I mean it seems like we routinely are offending other countries and other leaders and we understand as farmers, we need to these markets. Our reputation --
WHITFIELD: You've established relationships with these markets over years' time.
JOHNSON: Exactly. We have. And that's based on a reputation and that's being tarnished.
WHITFIELD: Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union -- thank you so much for your time, and of course, everyone is hoping the best for U.S. farmers.
JOHNSON: Thank you. Good to be here
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, President Trump in France meeting face to face with world leaders for the G-7 summit. But as Trump upped the ante on his feud with those nations, are our alliances -- U.S. alliances at risk? We'll discuss next.
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