LA MALBAIE (Quebec) • Leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) nations were set to clash with a combative US President Donald Trump yesterday as they pressured him to lift sanctions on steel and aluminium they fear could lead to a trade war.
The confrontation over United States tariffs on steel and aluminium threatened to rupture the G-7, which during its 43-year history has traditionally sought to find consensus on the economy and other issues.
Mr Trump, who aides said has little interest in multilateralism, resumed his tirade against Canada and "unfair trade deals" with G-7 countries early yesterday morning.
"Looking forward to straightening out unfair trade deals with the G-7 countries. If it doesn't happen, we come out even better!" Mr Trump tweeted ahead of his departure from Washington for Quebec.
The White House said he would leave the talks four hours earlier than originally planned, flying to Singapore to prepare for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.
By departing early, the US leader will miss talks about climate change and clean energy, and be out of the country by the time Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders begin closing news conferences likely to be laden with criticism of US trade policy.
Although Mr Trump said the tariffs are necessary to protect US industry, Canada and the European Union have denounced them as illegal and are preparing retaliatory measures. The anger of US allies over Mr Trump's decision to impose tariffs is palpable.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said they were "illegal", while Mr Trudeau said they were "insulting and totally unacceptable".
In a phone call with Mr Trump, he was said to be even more blunt.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned Mr Trump in a rare rebuke on Thursday that the other six members of the G-7 might issue a joint statement without the US.
British Prime Minister Theresa May took a more measured tone, telling reporters that she wanted the European Union to use restraint in its retaliation to the US tariffs, and that the response must be proportionate and legal.
Before the summit, finance ministers from the other six countries that form the Group of 7, or G-7, condemned Mr Trump's trade decisions in an extraordinary rebuke of a member nation's president.
And some of the leaders themselves have threatened to boy-cott the usual end-of-meeting communique. A senior Canadian official said a statement by only Mr Trudeau, the gathering's host, is possible.
Mr Trump showed no sign of backing down yesterday after earlier accusing both France and Canada of imposing massive tariffs on US goods, and then accusing Mr Trudeau of "being so indignant".
Shortly before leaving, he also told reporters that the decision to remove Russia from the group of the world's most advanced economies over the annexation of Crimea should be reversed. "I have been Russia's worst nightmare," Mr Trump claimed, "but with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting."
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE