Trump threatens more tariffs, heats up G-7 summit in Canada

US President Donald J. Trump (R) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) participate in a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 07 June 2018. [EPA-EFE/PETE MAROVICH]

Updates with Tusk comments

Tension rose among the richest countries in the world on Friday (8 June) as US President Donald Trump threatened to impose more tariffs on European and Canadian products ahead of a G7 meeting in Canada.

Trump has accused Canada and the EU of using “massive trade tariffs and non-monetary trade barriers against the US”. “Either they take them down or we will more than match you!” Trump warned in a series of tweets.

The US president said he was looking forward to “straightening out unfair trade deals with the G-7 countries” while underlying that “if it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!”

Clashes between the US and its traditional allies are becoming common and the situation is getting worse almost by the day. The Trump administration has already imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, which both Canada and the EU consider illegal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the decision as “insulting and unacceptable” and said Canada was working on a retaliation plan. Brussels is set to apply €2.8 billion worth of tariffs on US exports by early July and has launched a dispute settlement case at the WTO.

EU tariffs on US goods to take effect in early July

The EU is set to impose €2.8billion worth in tariffs on US exports in early July in response to duties Donald Trump’s administration has levied on European steel and aluminium, the European Commission confirmed on Wednesday (6 June).

A G-6 declaration 

Even so, the G7 summit was meant to be an opportunity to join forces against US duties and avoid further escalations. Instead, a trade war now seems to be more inevitable than ever and the disagreement among the leaders might lead to an unprecedented rupture.

Trudeau and French president Emmanuel Macron held a joint press conference a few hours before Trump’s announcement. “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a six-country agreement if need be,” Macron told the press.

“We must try to be convincing and to keep the United States in the community of nations, but we must never sacrifice our interests or values,” the French leader stressed.

“Tensions are rising everywhere and the G7 will be tough,” the French president said. Macron warned of the risk to create a world “of the rule by the strongest prevailing, which is not good for any of our counties or our friends in the world”.

This is why, Macron said “we will keep fighting”.

Trump wants Russia back at the table

The G7 might be even tougher than president Macron expected. In a last minute surprise, just before taking off from Washington, president Trump said Russia should be attending the summit.

“We have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they thought Russia out. They should let Russia come back in,” Trump told the press.

Newly elected Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte rushed to back Trump’s proposal. “Russia should return to the G8. It is in everybody’s interest,” Conte said on Twitter.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk defended the club should remain as it is. “I hear lots of speculation about G6, or G8, let’s leave G7 as it is, it’s a lucky number,” Tusk said during a press briefing ahead of the meeting.

Russia was expelled from the G8 in 2014, after the illegal annexation of Crimea.

The international order at risk

“When we met on the eve of Taormina summit last year, I said it would be the most challenging G7 summit in years. Unfortunately, this is even more true today,” Tusk told reporters ahead of the meeting.

The rules-based international order is being challenged, “not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor: the United States,” said Tusk.

“Our common values and the rules-based order are worth fighting for, and we will always stand in their defence,” the European Council president warned.

On trade, European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker said the situation is clear. “The president of the US thinks the US has been treated in an unfair way by Europe and by others, and others think it is not true. We will explain this by figures why this is not the right,” Juncker said.

To ensure a common position on this battle, all four leaders of the member states represented in the G7 – Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – were due to hold a meeting ahead of the summit, together with presidents Tusk and Juncker.

Tusk, who had met PM Conte earlier on Friday, was confident that the European unity will prevail, despite the Italian leader’s announcement that he would back the US proposal to re-admit Russia in the G-7.

“I am convinced that here the G7 we will have a fully united position on all issues, including in Russia, not in the details but in the general common line,” European Council president ensured. “It is not only about America first, it is also about European Unity first and we will show this today,” Juncker stressed.

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