Tariffs and Trump: War of words ahead of G7 summit

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Soldiers and police officers in Quebec Image copyright EPA
Image caption About 8,000 soldiers and police officers are expected to be on hand during the event

Leaders of the G7 group are gathering in Canada for what could be one its most acrimonious summits in years.

On the eve of the meeting, the French and Canadian leaders clashed with US President Donald Trump on the summit’s key agenda – trade tariffs.

Mr Trump, expected to be the last to arrive and first to leave, has imposed steel and aluminium tariffs that have sparked reprisals from trade partners.

But the nations could also clash on the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.

The G7 summit, which groups Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany, begins on Friday in the town of La Malbaie in Quebec.

What were the exchanges on the eve of the summit?

It was mainly France and Canada vs Donald Trump.

Although much has been made of the bonhomie between the US president and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, the latter was pulling no punches ahead of the talks.

In a tweet, Mr Macron said if Mr Trump wanted to be isolated, the six other nations would sign their own agreement if need be “because these six countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force”.

Host leader Justin Trudeau has also flirted with a “bromance” approach to Mr Trump but has appeared far more confrontational recently, particularly with the stalling of talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

He described Mr Trump’s citing of national security to defend his steel and aluminium tariffs as “laughable”.

Never one to back down, Mr Trump fired off defiant tweets, accusing Mr Trudeau of being “indignant” and the European Union and Canada of erecting “massive trade tariffs and non-monetary trade barriers against the US” for years.

“Take down your tariffs and barriers or we will more than match you,” he wrote.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to take a more conciliatory approach, saying she wanted the EU to act with restraint and proportion in retaliating to the US tariffs.

It is likely that Brexit, in particular trade deals following the UK’s exit from the EU, will also be on her agenda.

What else can we expect in Quebec?

Mr Trump will apparently be the last to arrive and the White House said he would fly out early, on Saturday morning, to head to Singapore for his landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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Media captionG7 summit: Trapped in the world’s most secure house

Mr Trudeau has set up five themes for the summit – inclusive economic growth; gender equality and women’s empowerment; world peace and security; jobs of the future; and climate change and oceans.

Whether Mr Trump is around long enough to cover them all remains to be seen.

The US president was very much the odd man out on climate change during the G7 in Italy last year, later announcing his intention to withdraw from the landmark Paris agreement.

Iran is also a big sticking point. Mr Trump recently ditched the 2015 agreement with Tehran that aimed to curb its nuclear programme. This angered the other signatories who have since sought to shore it up.

Almost unseen, the summit will be the first major outing for new Italian PM Giuseppe Conte.

The G7 – doesn’t that mean protests?

Usually. Although host nations are a bit more savvy and tend to hive them off to remote or well-defended areas.

About 400 demonstrators did protest on Thursday night in Quebec, burning the US and other flags of the G7.

But the town’s chief of police told media in May that the security threat for the summit was considered “moderate” and that he did not expect a repeat of the globalisation showdown in Genoa, Italy, in 2001.

About 8,000 soldiers and police officers are expected to be on hand during the Quebec event.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A protester with a flare at a protest march in Quebec City, ahead of the summit

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