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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Trump keeps up tough talk at G7 summit

US president warns against retaliation over tariffs that have angered close allies

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at the Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in La Baie, Quebec after leaving the G7 summit on June 9, 2018. Leah Millis / Reuters
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at the Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in La Baie, Quebec after leaving the G7 summit on June 9, 2018. Leah Millis / Reuters

President Donald Trump left the G7 annual summit on Saturday with characteristic bravado, warning America's trading partners not to counter his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports and insisting he had a "great relationship" with his foreign counterparts.

"If they retaliate, they're making a mistake," Mr Trump declared before leaving the annual Group of Seven meeting in Canada for his meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday.

Mr Trump's abbreviated stay at the meeting in Quebec saw him continuing the same type of tough talk on trade as when he set off from the White House, accusing the summit's host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, of being "indignant".

The summit came amid a trade dispute with China and served as a precursor to his unprecedented meeting with Mr Kim, the Asian autocrat who has long bedevilled the international order.

"His message from Quebec to Singapore is that he is going to meld the industrial democracies to his will — and bring back Russia," said Steve Bannon, Mr Trump's former campaign and White House adviser. Mr Bannon said China is "now on notice that Trump will not back down from even allies' complaints in his goal of America First".

Speaking on Saturday during a rare news conference, Mr Trump said he pressed for the G7 countries to eliminate all tariffs, trade barriers and subsidies in their trading practices. He reiterated his long-standing view that the US had been taken advantage of in global trade, adding: "We're like the piggy bank that everybody's robbing and that ends."

Mr Trump said US farmers had been harmed by tariffs and other barriers and warned that America's trading partners would need to provide him with more favourable terms. "It's going to stop or we'll stop trading with them," he said.

He cited progress on reaching an agreement on the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, saying the final outcome would lead either to an improved trade deal or separate pacts with the two US neighbours. He said he was discussing two types of sunset provisions in which any of the countries could leave the deal. A Canadian official said the leaders discussed accelerating the pace of the talks.

Before his arrival at the summit on Friday, the US president injected additional controversy by suggesting that the G7 offer a seat at the table to Russia, which was ejected from the group after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Re-admitting Russia to the elite club would be "an asset", Mr Trump told reporters on Saturday, adding: "We're looking for peace in the world."

He said he had not spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a while.

Mr Trump left the summit after showing up late for a breakfast meeting on gender equity and he missed sessions on climate change, clean energy and ocean protection. He left before any resolution was announced on the traditional joint statement from the seven industrialised nations in the group, which in addition to the US and Canada includes Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Japan.

Mr Trump's recent moves, building on 18 months of nationalist policy-making, leave him out of step with the globally minded organisation and prompted speculation that the group could fracture into something more like the "G6 plus one".

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said later that the G7 leaders had agreed on the wording of a common statement which would include a commitment to a "rules-based" trade framework.

In public, Mr Trump bantered easily with his fellow leaders, but their meeting came at a tense moment in the relationships, with allies steaming over Mr Trump's new tariffs on imported steel and aluminium from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Leading up to the meetings, Mr Trump, Mr Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron had suggested the potential for a tough tone, although they were cordial in face-to-face meetings.

Alluding to the tensions as he sat with Mr Macron on Friday, Mr Trump said: "We've had, really, a very good relationship, very special. A lot of people wrote a couple of things that weren't quite true. A little bit accurate, perhaps. We have a little test every once in a while when it comes to trade."

With Mr Trudeau, he joked that "Justin has agreed to cut all tariffs and all trade barriers between Canada and the United States".

Mr Macron said he had held "open and direct" discussions with Mr Trump and thought there was a way to get a "win-win" outcome on trade.

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Read more:

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US criticised at G7 finance ministers meeting on tariffs move

IMF condemns Trump’s tariffs move as trade war escalates: 'Everybody loses'

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