G7 Communique?

G-7 Leaders Race to Salvage Consensus

 Updated on 
  • Trump facing a backlash from leaders in Canada over tariffs
  • Meeting could instead end with less-formal chair’s statement
U.S. President Donald Trump, center left, shakes hands with Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, center right, after standing for a family photograph during the G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, on June 8, 2018.

Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

Leaders from the world’s richest industrialized nations downplayed expectations they will agree on a formal statement at the end of their meeting, as a brewing trade dispute threatens to upend relations between the traditional allies.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the two-day Group of Seven summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it remains uncertain whether the talks will produce a joint communique. Instead, the host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, could issue a less-formal chair’s statement.

Theresa May, from left, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, and Justin Trudeau during G7 Leaders Summit in Canada.

Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

“I cannot say whether there will be a common statement or just a summary,” Merkel said on Friday.

It would mark a rare break in protocol for the group. The consensus documents typically outline a shared vision of global affairs, where the seven countries also undertake commitments on everything from currencies, development aid and international security.Donald Trump, for his part, told reporters at his bilateral meeting with Trudeau that he thought there would be a joint statement coming out of the summit, though he didn’t specify whether he was referring to a final joint communique or to separate side agreements.

A Guide to the G-7 Communique, How It’s Done and Why It Matters

The U.S. president is facing a backlash from leaders in Canada and Europe over tariffs he imposed last week on steel and aluminum, as well as his decisions to walk away from international deals to address Iran’s nuclear program and climate change. Leaders have struggled to find ways of getting through to Trump and persuading him to budge from his pre-established positions.

“This should not come as a surprise to anyone,” said Colin Robertson, vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former Canadian diplomat, but “I wouldn’t say the walls have come down if we don’t have a communique.”

Robertson said there are other issues on which there will be agreement and the primary significance of these meetings anyhow is that “leaders get together and have those frank discussions.”

Sharp disagreements on trade are making it difficult for nations to come up with the traditional concluding statement from the agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he’ll refuse to sign a formal communique if there’s no progress on U.S. tariffs and other sticking points.

One solution, Merkel said, might be for Trump to withhold his signature from a final document.

“In a culture of open discussion, it’s possible that we don’t agree on all points,”’ Merkel said. “It would be more honest to address the different viewpoints and to continue the work of overcoming these differences, rather than pretending that everything is in order.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking to reporters at the summit, said officials are still in talks and “we’ll see where we land.” The G-7 is also working on side agreements for issues such as gender and supporting democracy.

“What we want to see is getting the substance right and in the past that has been done in a number of ways — a chairman’s statement, for example,” James Slack, a spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters.

A senior government official meanwhile said May would warn that countermeasures from the EU would be unavoidable unless tensions were eased quickly. She would also tell other leaders that rather than imposing tariffs on each other, pressure should be increased on China to reduce its excess steel capacity, the person said.

Tariff forum

Concerned about Trump’s approach to tariffs, Merkel on Friday proposed the creation of a “shared evaluation mechanism” on U.S. trade, a forum aimed at defusing tensions between the U.S. administration and the European Union. It’s an idea that has the support of Macron and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a French official said.

The other six nations are pushing for the G-7 to affirm “collective trade rules” in the communique, the French official said. Trump brought his hawkish trade czar, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, along for the trip.

The tariff standoff is a complicated issue for the EU — each country is exposed to different sectors, and could be impacted differently in the event of an escalation. Trump, for instance, is considering imposing tariffs on auto imports on national security grounds, a move that would hurt major foreign auto producers like Germany.

Merkel has repeatedly called for a strengthening of the World Trade Organization and for the establishment of mechanisms aimed at preventing future trade disputes. It wasn’t clear how her proposed trade forum at the G-7 would differ from the WTO’s dispute resolution functions.

“We need again a multilateral trade agreement,” Merkel said at a business summit last month. “As we all see right now, something has become unstable and the situation is quite difficult. It is therefore important to create a reliable common legal framework and mechanisms for settling trade disputes, which are accepted by everybody.”

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Trudeau and the G7

Canadian internationalism and Trudeau’s leadership in the spotlight at G7

Justin Trudeau’s leadership skills will be tested this week when G7 leaders assemble at the majestic Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix, Quebec.

Now in its 44th year, it is easy to dismiss G7 summitry as an expensive talk fest. We should look at its  $600 million price-tag as an insurance premium for global wellbeing. And frank talk among leaders of the great liberal democracies is needed now more than ever.

The erosion of public trust in liberal democracies’ institutions – government, business, the media and NGOs –is profoundly disturbing. The public needs to see its leaders taking action on the big issues of the day. The Charlevoix agenda provides that opportunity, covering gender, work, climate, energy, the oceans, protectionism, populism and extremism.

American protectionism will be top of mind in the wake of the steel and aluminium tariffs and the threat of more to come. The G7 finance ministers and bank governors drew the lines last week in Whistler highlighting the “negative impact of unilateral trade actions by the United States.”

Donald Trump will be as welcome as the proverbial skunk at the garden party. The other leaders need to take him on but not give him an excuse to walk out. As chair, Mr. Trudeau’s task is to keep the tone civil and constructive.

In recent weeks Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron have had a go at Mr. Trump on the trade differences as well as Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal. Perhaps G7 leaders, collectively, can convince him that it is better to reform, not rubbish, the rules-based international system.

A useful outcome would be agreement on how to improve dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization. Leaders should also try to get ahead of the curve and come up with a collective approach to addressing Mr. Trump’s concerns about the auto industry. More tit-for-tat tariffs are not the answer.

The G7 summit is the pinnacle of a year-long process. The deliverables outlined in the final communique will be a measure of Canadian industry in the long process that culminates with the Leaders’ summit.

open quote 761b1bDonald Trump will be as welcome as the proverbial skunk at the garden party. The other leaders need to take him on but not give him an excuse to walk out. As chair, Mr. Trudeau’s task is to keep the tone civil and constructive.

Last week in Whistler, G7 development ministers agreed to make gender equality central to development policy and approved a slew of initiatives. It is a testament to consistent Canadian leadership dating back decades, especially on empowering women, including Stephen Harper’s focus at the UN on maternal and child health. The French promise to pick up the gender baton as they host the 2019 G7 summit.

Leaders are also expected to endorse a practical plan to rid the oceans of plastics. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that 311 million tonnes of plastic were produced in 2014. Without the kind of action proposed by the G7, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

We can also expect blunt talk from Mr. Trump about allies paying “their fair share” of defence costs.

Canada remains at the low end of G7 nations, as a percentage of GDP spent on defence, but Mr. Trudeau can point to a series of initiatives, taken on his watch, that put Canadians at the sharp end in support of collective security. Canada leads the NATO brigade in Latvia. Our Special Forces are in the Middle East.  Royal Canadian Navy warships are in three oceans and our submarines are now into far waters. An RCAF plane is part of UN surveillance on North Korea. And Canadian Forces will soon be part of the UN peace operations in Mali.

It’s the 60th anniversary of our continental defence alliance. Mr. Trudeau needs to visit NORAD headquarters in Colorado. He should invite Mr. Trump to join him. It would visibly underline to Americans that Canada is a steadfast ally and make a mockery of Mr. Trump’s national security argument – the pernicious excuse for the steel and aluminium tariffs.

A year ago this week, Chrystia Freeland, Harjit Sajjan and Marie-Claude Bibeau spelled out the Trudeau government’s foreign policy. It is built on the themes of multilateralism and collective security with a focus on a feminist development policy and a progressive trade policy.

Each of these themes has guided Canada’s G7 stewardship. How they are reflected in the final communique will be a measure of the new Canadian internationalism and Mr. Trudeau’s standing with his peers.


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Donald Trump and G7

G7: Donald Trump versus the rest of the world

Leaders of seven of the world’s biggest economies are in Canada for what could be most acrimonious G7 summit in years.

A trade war looms as America’s allies threaten retaliation against US President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs.

The leaders of seven of the world’s biggest economies are in Canada for what could be the most acrimonious G7 summit in years.

Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium imports have caused outrage and a war of words with other world leaders.

The US president also finds himself virtually isolated on the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.

A showdown seems imminent.

So are we closer to a trade war that could derail the global economy?And will America First leave America Behind?

Presenter: Elizabeth Puranam Al Jeezera Inside Story

Guests:

Colin Robertson – former Canadian diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute

Inderjeet Parmar – department of international politics at City, University of London

Seijiro Takeshita – dean at the school of management and information at the University of Shizuoka

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G7 and Rules Based Order

Testy Trump to ditch G7 summit early, White House says

QUEBEC — U.S. President Donald Trump is cutting short his first presidential trip to Canada this weekend, as trade and foreign policy disputes appear set to mar his planned summit with the leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies.

The U.S. president’s reception in the picturesque town of La Malbaie along the St. Lawrence River is set to be a far cry from when Ronald Reagan visited Quebec three decades ago, when he was so friendly with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney they sang a song together.

Quarrelling with Trump over his protectionist tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, decision to exit the Iran nuclear accord and retreat from global efforts to combat climate change, erstwhile American allies are turning the summit into something of an intervention, challenging the U.S. president in the most direct terms to date.

The summit threatens to mark the outer limit of international patience for the avowed nationalistic Trump, as leaders who had sought to cajole and “bromance’’ the president are embracing more hard-nosed tactics.

Before shortening his planned participation on the eve of his departure, Trump found himself publicly feuding with summit host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and with French President Emmanuel Macron — two leaders who previously banked on flattery to win concessions with the American.

Trudeau has grown increasingly direct with his fury with Trump for imposing the tariffs on Canada’s metals industries — and for justifying the protectionist move by calling those imports a threat to U.S. national security.

Under Trump, the United States has abandoned its traditional role in the G-7. American presidents from Reagan to Barack Obama pressed for freer global trade. And they championed a trading system that required countries to follow World Trade Organization rules.

Trump’s policies, by contrast, are unapologetically protectionist and confrontational. To hear the president, poorly conceived trade deals and unfair practices by America’s trading partners have widened America’s trade deficit with the rest of the world — $566 billion last year — and contributed to a loss of millions of factory jobs.

Nelson Wiseman, a professor at the University of Toronto, said he can’t recall relations between U.S. and Canada being worse. He said the G-7 meeting will appear to be six lined up against one. Indeed, on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested in a tweet that Trump might not sign the final summit statement on G-7 priorities.

“The American president may not mind being isolated,‘’ Macron tweeted, “but neither do we mind signing a six-country agreement if need be. Because these six countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.‘’

Trump offered his own digs the evening before his departure.

“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out,‘’ he tweeted, adding, “Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.‘’

Later, Trump tweeted, “Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!‘’

White House officials said Trump in recent days had bristled at attending the summit, where he is set to be challenged face-to-face on his policy decisions. Among allies, there was even been speculation that Trump might walk out of the meetings — or even decide not to show up. Late Thursday, the White House announced he would leave the summit Saturday morning, after a session on women’s empowerment but well before it wraps up.

“The President will travel directly to Singapore from Canada in anticipation of his upcoming meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un Tuesday,‘’ press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “G7 Sherpa and Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs Everett Eissenstat will represent the United States for the remaining G7 sessions.‘’

Trudeau has charged that he found the tariffs “insulting’’ and said such tactics are hardly how two close allies and trading partners that fought side-by-side in the Second World War, Korea and Afghanistan should treat one another. The Trump administration has also clashed with Canada over his insistence that the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement involving the United States, Canada and Mexico be written to better serve the U.S.

The prime minister had at first refrained from criticizing Trump, apparently in the hope that he could forge a personal relationship that might help preserve the landmark free trade deal, a forerunner of which Reagan and Mulroney negotiated. Those two leaders became fast friends and famously sang When Irish Eyes Are Smiling together in Quebec City in 1985.

Trudeau’s courting of Trump appeared to work for a time. The president had initially exempted Canada from the steel and aluminum tariffs in March. But Trudeau became exasperated and took a shot after Trump let the exemption expire last week.

“We’ll continue to make arguments based on logic and common sense,‘’ he said, “and hope that eventually they will prevail against an administration that doesn’t always align itself around those principles.‘’

The United States has experienced tense relations with its allies before — over the Vietnam War, for example, over Reagan’s decision to deploy Pershing II missiles in Europe and over President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But Trump’s moves — the tariffs and his decisions to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, among other actions — have taken the hostility to new heights.

“This is the first time the U.S. government is seen as truly acting in bad faith, in treating allies as a threat, in treating trade as negative and fundamentally undermining the system that it built,‘’ said Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “This U.S. administration feels unbound by previous U.S. commitments in a way that no other administration has ever felt.‘’

“Prime ministers are people, and he’s insulted them,‘’ Reinsch said. “They’re just not going to easily roll over when he punches them in the nose like that.‘’

Canada and other U.S. allies are retaliating with tariffs on U.S. exports. Canada is waiting until the end of the month to apply them with the hope the Trump administration will reconsider. The Canadian tariffs would apply to goods ranging from yogurt to whiskey.

Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto, said Trump’s actions appear intended to break Canada at the negotiating table.

“They are relying on the overwhelming strength of the U.S. to compel a much weaker neighbour to give in to whatever they demand,‘’ Bothwell said. “That brings in the real possibility of lasting damage to Canadian-American relations.‘’

Bothwell expects this to be Trump’s only visit to Canada. He even wonders if it could be the last G-7 meeting for the president.

“We’ve not had an American president or administration like this in the post-war period,‘’ said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat. “I am worried because it is destructive to the rules-based international system that the Americans have been the guardian of.‘’

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