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America’s G7 allies on Saturday condemned Donald Trump’s decision to hit his trading partners with tariffs on steel and aluminium in a remarkable public rebuke of the group’s most powerful member following days of escalating tensions over trade.
A so-called chair’s summary released by G7 host nation Canada after meetings of finance ministers and central bankers on Saturday called for decisive action to address the tariffs in a forthcoming gathering of the group’s leaders.
Many ministers attending the G7 meetings in Whistler highlighted the “negative impact of unilateral trade actions by the United States,” the statement said. “Concerns were expressed that the tariffs imposed by the United States on its friends and allies, on the grounds of national security, undermine open trade and confidence in the global economy.”
It is rare to see such a bitter rift in the G7, a group of democracies that traces its roots back to the 1970s – much less open criticism by its membership of the US, which normally is a leading force in guiding its agenda. But Mr Trump’s decision to pursue protectionist measures against countries that count themselves as America’s closest economic and military partners has infuriated and alarmed politicians in other capitals.
“Unfortunately the actions of the United States this week risk undermining the very values that traditionally have bound us together,” said Canada’s finance minister Bill Morneau in a statement.
The public criticism of the US in Whistler further raises the stakes ahead of a summit of leaders including Mr Trump next week in Charlevoix. It comes as leading US partners including Canada and the EU prepare retaliatory measures following America’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
Mr Morneau told reporters following the meetings that there had been consensus outside the US that the Trump administration’s actions were “destructive to our ability to get things done”. US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin had been asked to convey the “regret and disappointment” felt by G7 partners to the president, he said.
Mr Mnuchin acknowledged the sentiments expressed by America’s partners but insisted after the gathering that the US was not abdicating its position at the helm of the world economy. “I don’t think in any way the US is abandoning its leadership in the global economy – quite the contrary,” he said in a press conference, citing the strength of the recent recovery following Republican-led tax cuts in December.
However, in the meetings finance ministers repeatedly urged the US to reverse its decision to impose levies on metal imports. Taro Aso, Japan’s finance minister, called the US action “deeply deplorable” in comments to reporters. Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, referred acerbically to the G6 plus one. The discussions, he said later, had been tense and difficult. “We cannot understand the American decisions on steel and aluminium. The ball is in the US court,” he said on Twitter.
US allies on both sides of the Atlantic have angrily cited their close ties with the US and shared sacrifices in past wars alongside the country as they condemned America’s steps. Brussels has said it will enact retaliatory tariffs on US exports and bring a case to the WTO, while Canada said it would impose tariffs on up to $12.8bn worth of US imports.
Nevertheless, as the G7 finance minister and central bank governors’ meetings wrapped up on Saturday, Mr Trump reiterated his demands on trade on social media, saying the US must “at long last be treated fairly on Trade”.
He added: “If we charge a country ZERO to sell their goods, and they charge us 25, 50 or even 100 percent to sell ours, it is UNFAIR and can no longer be tolerated. That is not Free or Fair Trade, it is Stupid Trade!”
The debate in Whistler came as US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross holds talks in China this weekend aimed at reaching an accord with Beijing over the two countries’ trade differences. Mr Trump cast those discussions into further doubt earlier in the week by threatening to impose tariffs on $50bn of Chinese goods.
The G7 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.