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LA MALBAIE, Quebec (Reuters) – Leaders of the G7 nations on Saturday papered over the cracks in their alliance at a summit in Canada but came away with little more than an agreement to disagree on trade, as U.S. President Donald Trump defiantly brandished his “America First” agenda.
Trump, who last week slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico, left the Group of Seven summit early but not before threatening to cut off trade with countries that treated the United States unfairly.
“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing,” he said at a press conference as his G7 counterparts continued their two-day meeting in La Malbaie, Quebec, and officials hammered out a joint communique.
“This isn’t just G7. I mean, we have India, where some of the tariffs are 100 percent … And we charge nothing,” Trump said. “And it’s going to stop. Or we’ll stop trading with them.”
In their communique, the leaders of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.
“We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies,” they said in the statement.
Trump, who repeated that his tariffs are meant to protect U.S. industry and workers from unfair international competition, told reporters he had suggested to the other G7 leaders that all trade barriers, including tariffs and subsidies, be eliminated.
He also denied the summit had been contentious, a remark that contradicted what one G7 official described as an “extraordinary” exchange on Friday in which Trump repeated a list of trade grievances, mainly concerning the EU and Canada.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the official’s remarks about Trump.
Trump’s counterparts in the G7 have been scrambling this week to try to find some semblance of consensus with Washington on trade and the other key issues that have formed the basis of the 42-year-old organization.
“These are jointly shared principles, although the pitfalls lie in the details,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a press conference before the release of the communique.
French President Emmanuel Macron described it as a good first step that represented the G7 nations’ desire to stabilize the situation.
“Nevertheless, I do not consider that with a declaration all is obtained and it is obvious that we will have in the coming weeks, the next months, to continue to work,” Macron told reporters.
Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey, Andrea Hopkins, David Ljunggren, Giselda Vagnoni, Jan Strupczewski and William James in La Malbaie and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Susan Thomas and Grant McCool