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G7 leaders brace for clash with Trump on trade and climate
[TAORMINA, Italy] Leaders of the world's rich nations braced for contentious talks with Donald Trump at a G7 summit in Sicily on Friday after the US president lambasted NATO allies for not spending more on defence and accused Germany of "very bad" trade policies.
Mr Trump's confrontational remarks in Brussels, on the eve of the two-day summit in the Mediterranean resort town of Taormina, cast a pall over a meeting at which America's partners had hoped to coax him into softening his stances on trade and climate change.
The summit will kick off with a ceremony at an ancient Greek theatre perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, before the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States begin talks on terrorism, Syria, North Korea and the global economy.
"We will have a very robust discussion on trade and we will be talking about what free and open means," White House economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters late Thursday.
He also predicted "fairly robust" talks on whether Mr Trump should honour a US commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Mr Trump, who dismissed man-made global warming a "hoax" during his election campaign, is not expected to decide at the summit whether he will stick with the Paris deal, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Even if a decision is not forthcoming, European leaders have signalled that they will push Mr Trump hard on the Paris emissions deal, which has comprehensive support across the continent.
"This is the first real opportunity that the international community has to force the American administration to begin to show its hand, particularly on environment policy," said Mr Tristen Naylor, a lecturer on development at the University of Oxford and deputy director of the G20 Research Group.
The summit, being held near Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna, is the final leg of a nine-day tour for Mr Trump - his first foreign trip since becoming president - that started in the Middle East.
On Thursday in Brussels, with NATO leaders standing alongside him, he accused members of the military alliance of owing "massive amounts of money" to the United States and NATO - even though allied contributions are voluntary.
According to German media reports, he also condemned Germany for "very bad" trade policies in meetings with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, signalling that he would take steps to limit the sales of German cars in the United States.
EU officials declined to confirm the reports.
Mr Trump will not be the only G7 newcomer. French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and British Prime Minister Theresa May will also be attending the elite club for the first time.