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Allies race to clinch G-7 face-saver before Trump’s early exit

By AFP - Jun 10,2018 - Last updated at Jun 11,2018

US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, on Friday (AFP photo)

LA MALBAIE, Canada — President Donald Trump quit the G-7 summit in Quebec early Saturday having made no concessions to his allies' anger at his imposition of tariffs designed, in his eyes, to rebalance world trade.

In fact, the US leader instead boasted he had made progress in convincing his counterparts from the world's richest democracies of the need to change the rules of the game in America's favour.

Trump left the summit for Singapore and his historic nuclear summit with Kim Jong-un in much the same position as he had come in — alone in the face of the six other G-7 members working together to defend multilateral trade rules.

An official from French President Emmanuel Macron's office said there was still hope a joint communique would be signed, with Washington opting out of clauses on climate and the environment, but that US negotiators are opposing language on strengthening international trade oversight.

The French side still expect the text to signal support for "rules-based" multilateral cooperation rather than for Trump's preference for bilateral deals with American partners designed to reduce US trade deficits. 

Trump was upbeat, however, arguing that he could tell from the smiles of European leaders around the table that they knew that "the gig is up" and that they would be obliged to negotiate terms with Washington. 

"They can't believe they got away with it," he declared, repeating his mantra that G-7 members have been taking advantage of the naivety of his predecessors for decades.

"We want and expect other nations to provide fair market access to American exports and... we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect industry and workers from unfair practices, of which there are many. 

"But we're getting them worked out, slowly but surely."

The text of the annual G-7 joint communique is usually all but final before the leaders meet for two days of glad-handing and group photo opportunities, but this year officials were negotiating even as Trump headed for his plane.

If the G-7 fails to agree a final communique — or if it is watered down too far for the sake of appeasing the "America First" economic agenda — Canada's G-7 will be remembered mainly for fierce disagreements over Trump's tariffs and his surprise request to return Russia to the fold. 

While diplomats wrangled in private, summit host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gathered the other leaders for a breakfast session on women's equality. Trump arrived 17 minutes after the planned 8:00am start time and after Trudeau's opening remarks. He was seated next to a luminary of the multilateral system, IMF Director Christine Lagarde.

Even before he flew out of Washington on Friday to hook up with the rest of the group, Trump managed to rile his counterparts by declaring that it was time that Russia be brought back into the G-7. The idea was swiftly shot down.

With his wife Melania back home in Washington, Trump cut a lonely figure on arrival at the golf resort in rural Quebec as he posed with his host Trudeau and his wife Sophie and other first couples.

He was then confronted with a litany of complaints over his decision to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum when the leaders held roundtable talks chaired by Trudeau.

A member of Macron's team characterised the talks as "frank and robust", with Trump first repeating his lengthy diatribe about what he regards as unfair trade restrictions — before the Europeans responded with facts and figures they felt would blunt his argument.


 Quest for a

 joint statement 


Trudeau told Trump that it was "unacceptable" to cite national security when targeting a military ally like Canada with tariffs. 

"The Prime Minister pressed the President to reconsider the US tariffs imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum, and encouraged him to work with Canada to address unfair trade," Trudeau's office said.

The summit was wrapping up just as Chinese President Xi Jinping begins hosting the leaders of Russia and Iran at a two-day regional security meeting in a symbol of the power-play between East and West.

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