CHARLEVOIX, CANADA - The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations Saturday managed to issue a joint communique following “heated” discussions in Canada, but their annual summit ended in a war of words with U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly backing off from the agreement he signed hours before.
“We acknowledge that free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment, while creating reciprocal benefits, are key engines for growth and job creation,” said the statement issued after the meeting in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, where trade was the major source of division between the United States and the remaining six.
Expressing a commitment to modernize the World Trade Organization “to make it more fair as soon as possible,” the communique said, “We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies.” It also maintained the phrase “to fight protectionism,” which was also used last year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed the outcome, saying in a press conference, “It is very significant that the G7 leaders agreed this time to make efforts to promote free, fair and rule-based trade systems, which the G7 has led.”
But the feud over new U.S. metal tariffs, which have been testing G7 ties, escalated as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Trump’s trade policy as “insulting” in a news conference that closed the summit.
Trump, after leaving the G7 venue for Singapore, where he is scheduled to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, tweeted that Trudeau is “dishonest & weak.”
Calling Trudeau’s remarks “false statements,” Trump tweeted that he had instructed U.S. representatives not to endorse the communique which G7 leaders signed earlier Saturday.
The G7 members remain divided after the United States last week ended the exemption from tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum products imported from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, a move that angered the allies and ignited a heated debate. Japan has also been subject to the punitive levies.
The rift was also evident over climate change.
The G7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plus the European Union.
“Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union reaffirm their strong commitment to implement the Paris Agreement,” the statement said.
“The United States will continue to promote energy security and economic growth in a manner that improves the health of the world’s oceans and environment,” it said.
This was not the first time the American president had been isolated at a G7 summit. Trump was also singled out over the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement last year, when he attended the summit for the first time and announced his intention to pull Washington out of the emission-cutting pact.
As for security issues, Abe said in his news conference that the leaders were completely united on policies toward North Korea.
On Friday, the first day of their summit, the G7 leaders confirmed their cooperation on the proposed denuclearization of North Korea ahead of the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore.
“We continue to call on North Korea to completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle all of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles as well as its related programs and facilities,” the communique said.
The leaders also pledged to urge the North to immediately resolve the issue of Japanese citizens abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, which Abe views as his administration’s priority agenda.
They urged Russia, which was suspended from the group following its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, to stop its “destabilizing behavior” aimed at undermining democratic systems, apparently referring to Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.
Criticizing Russia’s support of the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, the leaders called for the country to live up to its international obligations while stressing they stand ready to take “further restrictive measures” if needed.
On Saturday, the leaders discussed gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as climate change and clean energy.
In an outreach session in the afternoon, they discussed the ocean environment with representatives from such nations as Argentina, Bangladesh, Norway, South Africa and Vietnam as well as international bodies including the World Bank and the United Nations.
The G7 leaders pledged to protect the health of marine environments, including addressing plastic waste in oceans and marine litter.