G7 leaders sign joint communiqué despite trade tensions with US

Trump says US is ‘like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing’

In a brief photo opportunity on the sidelines of the G7 summit, US president Donald Trump followed Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau's diplomatic introduction by joking that Trudeau had backed down on retaliatory tariffs. Video: Reuters

 

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has said all countries attending the G7 summit have signed a joint communiqué, despite sharp trade tensions with the US.

Mr Trudeau said the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan have reached agreement on “consensus language”.

US president Donald Trump recently slapped tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, angering his counterparts before he arrived at the summit in Quebec.

Some had predicted it would be difficult for all the leaders to reach any kind of consensus because of the sharp disagreements.

But Mr Trudeau said the leaders had “rolled up our sleeves” and settled on language they could agree to on a broad range of issues.

The group  agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism, their communiqué said.

“We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies,” the G7 leaders said in a statement after a meeting that focused heavily on trade fights between the United States and its allies.

‘Piggy bank’

Prior to the communiqué being issued, Mr Trump railed against trade practices he called unfair to the United States at a Group of Seven nations summit where leaders agreed on Saturday to fight protectionism and reform the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing,” Mr Trump said at a press conference shortly before leaving the gathering of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan. “It’s going to stop now or we’ll stop trading with them (other nations).”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged differences between the United States and the six other members of the G7 remained. “For us, it was important that we have a commitment for a rule-based trade order, that we continue to fight against protectionism and that we want to reform the WTO (World Trade Organisation),” Dr Merkel told reporters.

Germany along with other European Union members, Canada and Mexico were stung last week when Mr Trump imposed tariffs on imports of their aluminum and steel to the United States.

Oxfam activists imitate the leaders of the G7 nations as they protest against the warming global responsibility during the G7 Summit in Quebec City. Photograph: Andre Pichette/EPA
Oxfam activists imitate the leaders of the G7 nations as they protest against the warming global responsibility during the G7 Summit in Quebec City. Photograph: Andre Pichette/EPA

Elimination of tariffs

Mr Trump, who repeated that the tariffs are meant to protect US industry and workers from what he describes as unfair international competition, said he had suggested to the other G7 leaders that all trade barriers, including tariffs and subsidies, be eliminated.

He denied that the summit had been contentious, a remark that contradicted what one G7 official described as an “extraordinary” exchange on Friday.

Mr Trump repeated a list of grievances about US trade, mainly with the EU and Canada, a French presidency official told reporters.

“And so began a long litany of recriminations, somewhat bitter reports that the United States was treated unfairly, that the trading system was totally unfavourable to the United States, the American economy, American workers, the middle class,” the official said.

“In short, a long, frank rant which is undoubtedly very unusual in this kind of formats,” the official added.

French President Emmanuel Macron responded in a “courteous but very firm tone” to present the European side of the story, and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe chimed in as well, the official said.

Early exit

Mr Trump left before the end of the summit on Saturday. He will fly to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which he described as a “mission of peace.”

Apart from trade, there also was disagreement over the G7’s position on climate change and Mr Trump’s suggestion that Russia be re-admitted to the group.

Russia was suspended in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Dr Merkel said on Saturday there must first be progress on a Ukraine peace plan before there is any talk about readmitting Moscow.

Mr Trump’s presidency has been clouded by a federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion by his campaign. Both Moscow and Mr Trump have denied the allegations.