France, Europe stand by G-7 statement after Trump U-turn: French official

VIDEO: REUTERS
US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the G-7 summit in Quebec, Canada, on June 9, 2018.
US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during the G-7 summit in Quebec, Canada, on June 9, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) – France and Europe are maintaining their support for the Group of Seven (G-7) communique and anyone departing from the commitments made at the summit would be showing their “incoherence and inconsistency”, a French presidency official told Reuters. 

The official was reacting after United States President Donald Trump’s announcement on Saturday (June 9) that he was backing out of the G-7 communique drawn up at a summit in Canada. 

“International cooperation cannot depend on being angry and on sound bites. Let’s be serious,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added.

Mr Trump railed against trade practices he called unfair to the US at a G-7 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 US, 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 US and the six other members of the G-7 remained, but said a joint statement on trade was expected to be issued at the end of the two-day summit in La Malbaie, Quebec.

“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,” Dr Merkel told reporters.

Germany along with other European Union members, Canada and Mexico were stung when Mr Trump imposed tariffs on imports of their aluminium and steel to the US with effect from June 1.

The German leader said there was broad agreement among G-7 leaders that tariffs and other trade barriers should be reduced.

“These are jointly shared principles, although the pitfalls lie in the details,” she said.

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 G-7 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 G-7 official described as an “extraordinary” exchange on Friday (June 8).

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 and flew 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 G-7’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.