Sun, Jun 10, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Trade woes drive wedge between US, rest of G7

AFP, LA MALBAIE, Canada

From left, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk as US President Donald Trump gestures after posing for the “family portrait” at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada, on Friday.

Photo: EPA

Leaders of the G7 nations spent Friday hunting for a face-saving formula to mask the deep rift inflicted on the Western alliance by US President Donald Trump’s assault on global trade rules.

Senior figures, including Trump, suggested that some kind of joint statement on the need to jointly re-examine commercial relationships might be found before their summit ended yesterday.

However, no consensus document would conceal the damage inflicted by the US leader’s aggressive imposition of tariffs on what had been some of Washington’s closest allies.

Summit host Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sided with his European and Japanese colleagues against the US leader and his “illegal” levies on steel and aluminum imports.

Apparently reveling in a rift that threatens to spiral into a trade war, Trump stirred the pot by declaring before the talks began that he would like to see Russia re-admitted to the club.

However, this apparently spontaneous suggestion — rejected out of hand by the other allies — did not make it to the summit table, where instead the leaders confronted Trump’s assault on the world trade system.

“We’ve made a lot of progress today. We’ll see how it all works out, but we’ve made a lot of progress,” Trump said, sitting by Trudeau after talks that an official said were marked by “strong disagreement,” but “not heated.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also put a brave face on the encounter.

“I think we had a very open and direct discussion this afternoon, we’ve always had this kind of discussion. And I think on trade, there is a critical path, there is a way to progress altogether,” he said, speaking in English.

Trump has invoked a US national security provision to unilaterally impose tariffs on imports of foreign steel and aluminum, to the outrage of the US’ allies, which have retaliated with a threat of their own, more targeted, sanctions.

European leaders on Friday met separately ahead of the G7 summit in La Malbaie, a golf resort north of Quebec City, and presented Trump with a united front “backed by facts and figures” to counter his charge, officials said.

Trump said he hoped a final summit communique would be agreed, and officials were to work late into the night, while the leaders enjoyed a campfire chat and circus acts.

Ahead of the encounter, the allies made no secret of their anger at Trump’s stance, pointed starkly to fears that he is undermining the rules-based world order and driving former US friends into a damaging trade war.

European leaders said Trump’s stance on trade, climate, Iran and — now — Russia was setting him apart, and Canada firmly rejected the tariffs and threatened retaliation.

European Council President Donald Tusk said that Trump’s determination to bait his allies over trade and diplomatic engagements “would only play into the hands of those who seek a new post-West order, where liberal democracy and fundamental freedoms would cease to exist.”

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland expressed outrage that Trump had invoked a national security justification for his global tariffs.

“We are very clear that Canada does not pose a national security threat to the United States,” she said. “So this an illegal act. It is absolutely unjustified. We have already raised cases at the WTO and at NAFTA [North America Free Trade Agreement], and we will retaliate.”

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