Allies bid to paper over cracks at fractious G7 summit

By AFP   June 8, 2018 | 10:14 pm PT
Allies bid to paper over cracks at fractious G7 summit
Leaders pose for a group photo at the G7 summit. Photo by AFP
Trump has found himself separated from peers angered at being slapped with tariffs that could trigger a trade war.

Donald Trump and America's closest allies will bid to paper over the cracks Saturday after a fractious G7 summit, before the US presidents sets off on a mission to make peace with a traditional enemy.

The last of the leaders to arrive in Canada for the two-day summit, Trump is also expected to be the first one out on Saturday morning as he heads towards Singapore for his meeting on Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump is likely to be thankful for a good excuse to leave a gathering where he has found himself in a minority of one - pitted against peers angered at being slapped with tariffs that could trigger a wider trade war.

While officials are trying to find a formula for a traditional end of summit communique that everyone can sign up to, any statement will do little to mask the sense of divide between the G7's most powerful member and the rest of the group.

Even before he flew out of Washington on Friday to hook up with the rest of the group, Trump managed to put the cat among the pigeons by saying it was time that Russia be brought back into the fold. The idea was swiftly shot down.

With his wife Melania staying at home, Trump cut a lonely figure on arrival at the golf resort in rural Quebec as he posed with his host Justin 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 French President Emmanuel Macron's team characterized 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 their own gripes.

Sources in two European delegations said that Merkel was working on a proposal for a mechanism which would allow them to reopen a dialogue with the U.S. on trade through a de facto working group that would develop mutually agreed statistics.

It would aim to address the US claim that cheap aluminum and steel is causing a national security risk by threatening the viability of vital American industries - thus justifying his imposition of tariffs.

Quest for a joint statement

Trudeau told Trump that it was "unacceptable" to impose tariffs on national security grounds when he had a one-on-one with the U.S. leader.

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

But Trump talked up the prospect that some kind of face-saving formula could be found.

"I think we'll have a joint statement," he said as he appeared alongside Trudeau.

Officials worked late into the night in an effort to reach an agreement while the leaders enjoyed a campfire chat and a performance by acrobats from the Cirque du Soleil.

The summit is being held at a luxury resort more than two hours' drive from the provincial capital, where there have been several relatively trouble-free protests.

Previous G7 summits have seen large-scale anti-globalization protests.

Trump's courting of the US victims of globalization was a major factor in his rise to power.

His willingness to break up multilateral agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accord have also played well with his core support.

But allies who had grown accustomed to U.S. leadership are now openly alarmed about the future under Trump.

"What worries me most is the fact that the rules-based international order is being challenged, quite surprisingly not by the usual suspects but by its main architect and guarantor, the U.S.," European Council President Donald Tusk, who is among the guest in Quebec, said on Friday.

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