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Trump Isolated at G7 Meeting

Trump has suggested ending all tariffs between the US and other G7 nations after a tense meeting on trade in Quebec, a stark turnaround from his recent tough talk on trade imbalances
From left: Donald Tusk, Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Shinzo Abe, Giuseppe Conte, and Jean-Claude Juncker  during the G7 Leaders Summit in Canada on June 8.From left: Donald Tusk, Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Shinzo Abe, Giuseppe Conte, and Jean-Claude Juncker  during the G7 Leaders Summit in Canada on June 8.

A G7 summit dominated by disagreement over trade between the US and its key allies has failed to deliver a breakthrough as the meeting enters its second and final day.

US President Donald Trump added to the disunity before his arrival at the Quebec resort town of La Malbaie on Friday when he called for Russia to be readmitted into the informal annual gathering of seven advanced economies. The suggestion was quickly shot down by his European allies, Al Jazeera reported.

"Canada's position is absolutely clear. That there are no grounds whatsoever for bringing Russia with its current behavior back into the G7," said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Her words echoed statements from France and Germany, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Russia could not be readmitted until it had made "substantial progress" on Ukraine.

But details were scant and clear differences remained at the summit's midpoint.

Trump's suggestion was welcomed, however, by new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who tweeted: "Russia should reenter the G8. It is in the interests of all."

But even Russia itself seemed to have little interest in rejoining the forum. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement that "Russia is focused on other formats, apart from the G7".

Russia was suspended from the G8 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Isolated America

The rift over Russia threatened to overshadow the more pressing concern of a brewing trade war between the US and its key allies of the past decades.

Tensions between the US and its G7 partners over trade and the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal were rife in the face of the summit which had been dubbed by some as "G6 plus one", referring to an isolated US.

On May 31, the Trump administration confirmed it would apply additional tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico, and EU countries, ending a two-month exemption period. Some countries have announced retaliatory measures against the US by introducing tariffs of their own.

Just hours before attending the summit, Trump tweeted about rectifying "unfair trade deals with the G7 countries".

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron had tweeted "the American president may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6-country agreement if need be".

Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told Al Jazeera Trump risks isolating himself with his controversial trade policies. "This isn't the 1930s where everybody levied a lot of tariffs on everybody else," Kirkegaard said. "This is the US levying tariffs on everybody else and then everybody else retaliating on the US," he added.

"What this will look like in 2018 and potentially beyond is a more and more economically and politically isolated America, but the rest of the world is pretty much carrying on to the best of its ability just without the US."

Despite the tough talk, diplomats have described the ongoing discussions as "cordial and productive".

Trump said at his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau he believed the seven nations can hammer out a final communiqué. It is unclear whether a communiqué agreed by all will be released on Saturday.

Working Round-the-Clock

The G7 countries are working around the clock to craft a full communiqué to be signed by their leaders Saturday, a Canadian official said at the end of talks late Friday. The official said disagreements remain, particularly with the US on a number of issues, but the goal remains to reach agreement on all the big issues, Bloomberg reported.

The leaders discussed trade in their afternoon group meeting, touching on the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump recently imposed on Canada and the EU, the Canadian official said.

A German official said that if Trump declines to sign a communiqué, it won’t be the end of the G7, but it would be a worrisome signal.

“In a culture of open discussion, it’s possible that we don’t agree on all points," Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. But “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."

Trump to End Tariffs?

Trump has reportedly suggested ending all tariffs between the US and other G7 nations after a tense meeting on trade at the summit in Quebec, a stark turnaround from his recent tough talk on trade imbalances.

“We should at least consider no tariffs, no barriers—scrapping all of it,” Trump said at a private gathering with European leaders, according to sources cited by Politico.

Officials familiar with the discussion said Trump’s remarks were largely seen as rhetorical by other world leaders present, but Merkel is said to have offered to take the suggestion as a “starting point”. The apparent about-face comes after Merkel and other leaders, including Trudeau and Macron, reportedly confronted Trump over his threats to impose steep tariffs, pushing back against his repeated claims that the US is a victim of unfair trade practices by its European allies.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly offered to visit Washington to continue trade talks with Trump, though the US president is said to have not responded to that proposal.

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