Six G7 allies unite against Trump on tariffs
Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, June 2, 2018 10:38AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 2, 2018 7:36PM EDT
WHISTLER, B.C. -- Group of Seven nations moved closer to a trade war with the United States on Saturday, as six members of the exclusive club singled out their American partner over tariffs they warn have undermined open trade and shaken confidence in the global economy.
The group's highly unusual public rebuke of one of its own members called out the U.S. for hefty steel and aluminum tariffs the Trump administration imposed in recent days on its G7 friends.
U.S. President Donald Trump's tariffs are driving a wedge in the G7 -- and laying the groundwork for a potential clash among its leaders next week in Quebec's Charlevoix region.
Allies including Canada and the European Union are threatening retaliatory tariffs in hope of forcing Trump to back down from his position.
G7 finance ministers and central bankers crafted a message to Washington Saturday at the end of a three-day meeting in Whistler, B.C. The gathering, meant to explore economic issues ahead of the leaders' summit, featured discussions on trade that one minister described as "tense and tough."
In the joint "chair's summary," they asked their counterpart, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to "communicate their unanimous concern and disappointment" to his boss.
Ministers urged the U.S. to quickly abandon the tariffs ahead of the leaders' summit before the move causes deeper divisions within the G7.
"The international community is faced with significant economic and security issues, which are best addressed through a united front from G7 countries," said the summary, was agreed to by the ministers.
"Members continue to make progress on behalf of our citizens, but recognize that this collaboration and co-operation has been put at risk by trade actions against other members."
Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who chaired the Whistler meetings, said even though the group found common ground on many subjects, G7 members are now forced to do whatever they can to convince Trump to move back from the tariffs.
"We are concerned that these actions are actually not conducive to helping our economy -- they actually are destructive. And that's consistently held across the six countries that expressed their point of view to Secretary Mnuchin," Morneau told reporters in Whistler.
"I would expect that those sorts of sentiments will be passed along to the leaders' round, and they will have a similar sort of discussion."
Morneau has called the steel and aluminum tariffs "absurd," because Canada is by no means a security risk to the U.S. He's warned the measures will destroy jobs on both sides of the border.
France's Bruno Le Maire, the finance and economy minister, was more blunt in his assessment of the Whistler meetings, where ministers confronted Mnuchin.
"It has been a tense and tough G7 -- I would say it's been far more a G6 plus one than a G7," said Le Maire, who called the tariffs "unjustified."
"We regret that our common work together at the level of the G7 has been put at risk by the decisions taken by the American administration on trade and on tariffs."
Le Maire said it's now up to the U.S. to take action to rebuild confidence among G7 members -- and to avoid any escalation next week during the G7 leaders' summit.
That summit, which will be hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will also mark Trump's first visit to Canada as president.
On Saturday, Mnuchin told a news conference in Whistler that despite the differences in the room over trade, there were many areas the group was "completely united on."
"I think there was a comment out there that (this was) the G6 plus one. It was not... We believe in the G7, it's an important group," Mnuchin said.
"I'm sure that the president looks forward to coming to Canada and meeting all the other leaders with many, many important issues going on throughout the world."