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G-7 finance chiefs condemn Trump tariffs as allies rebel
[WHISTLER, British Columbia] Group of Seven finance chiefs issued a rare rebuke of a member nation, claiming US trade actions could undermine global economic confidence and threaten the effectiveness of the Western alliance.
The statement singled out the Americans, the largest and most important member of the G-7, saying "decisive action" is needed at a leaders summit next week in Quebec. The ministers requested that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "communicate their unanimous concern and disappointment."
"The international community is faced with significant economic and security issues, which are best addressed through a united front from G-7 countries," Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a "chair's summary" of the meeting in Whistler, British Columbia. "Members continue to make progress on behalf of our citizens, but recognize that this collaboration and cooperation has been put at risk by trade actions against other members."
Mr Morneau's comments came after an acrimonious three days of talks - with Mr Mnuchin on the receiving end of much of the frustration - in which America's allies protested against President Donald Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico. With the trade dispute triggering one of the biggest crises in the G-7 since the group's formation in the 1970s, frictions are poised to spill over into next week's meetings in Charlevoix, Quebec that Trump will attend. The group includes Canada, France, Italy, Germany, the U.K., Japan and the US.
"It has been a tense and tough G-7. I would say it has been far more a G-6 plus one than a G-7," said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. The EU has threatened to retaliate with duties on everything from American motorcycles to bourbon.
Before these week's trade actions, the European Union and Canada had previously been granted temporary exemptions. Japan had already been subject to the tariffs, which the US said were necessary to protect its national security.
At his closing press conference, Mr Mnuchin said that he's already conveyed the G-7 message to Mr Trump, who he said "has been very clear in wanting to address trade issues."
"Our objective is to make sure we have fair and balanced trade," Mr Mnuchin said in the Canadian ski resort town. "I don't think in any way the US is abandoning its leadership in the global economy. Quite the contrary, we've had a massive effort in tax reform in the United States which has had an incredible impact on the US economy."
Mr Le Maire opened the door to negotiations over the tariffs, but said the ball is in the U.S. court. "We still have a few days to avoid an escalation. We still have a few days to take the necessary steps to avoid a trade war between the EU and the US," Mr Le Maire said, adding the EU doesn't want a trade war.
Mr Mnuchin reiterated that the US will continue to have discussions around possible exemptions to the metal tariffs.
Shortly before the G-7 meeting ended, Mr Trump tweeted that "the United States must, at long last, be treated fairly on trade."
"If we charge a country ZERO to sell their goods, and they charge us 25, 50 or even 100 per cent to sell ours, it is UNFAIR and can no longer be tolerated. That is not Free or Fair Trade, it is Stupid Trade!" the president said, without specifying what tariff rates he was referring to.