European Council President Donald Tusk is urging G7 leaders to find common ground, especially on issues of security and trade, warning that trade wars ”will lead to recession” — one day after a Twitter tirade against China by the U.S. president that sent investors running for cover.
The spectre of Donald Trump’s scorched-earth style loomed large Saturday as Tusk acknowledged the mounting tension among G7 nations in recent years as they seek common ground at a time when greater co-operation was never more important.
“This may be the last moment to restore our political community,” Tusk told a news conference in the seaside resort of Biarritz, France, where the leaders of the seven leading world economies have gathered for several days of meetings and talks.
“Trade wars will lead to recession, while trade deals will boost the economy — not to mention the fact that trade wars among G7 members will lead to eroding the already weakened trust among us.”
It was only Friday when Trump angrily upped the ante in his trade fight with China, promising to increase planned tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods from 10 to 15 per cent in response to Beijing’s decision to raise taxes on $75-billion worth of U.S. imports. He also “hereby ordered” American companies to find alternatives to doing business there.
“I have no choice. We’re not going to lose close to a trillion dollars a year to China,” he later said on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 673 points lower. “Tariffs are working out very well for us. People don’t understand that yet.”
It’s in spite of that superheated atmosphere that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hoping to build consensus on the virtues of free trade and strengthen Canada’s trade ties with its G7 partners.
Trudeau met Saturday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for discussions that were expected to focus on how Canada’s existing trade deal with the European Union would function in a post-Brexit Britain. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Johnson took over as prime minister of the United Kingdom in July.
Trudeau was also scheduled to meet later in the day with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Those talks were aimed at giving Trudeau the opportunity to highlight strong Japanese-Canadian ties forged from the successful launch of the rebooted Trans-Pacific Partnership late last year, as well as a chance to talk security issues amid rising tensions between Tokyo and South Korea.
But while Trudeau tries to cement plans for a smooth transition in the U.K. of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) — which set rules for trade between Canada and the European Union — opposition to CETA in France among farmers and environmentalists has continued.
Isabelle Hudon, Canada’s ambassador to France, acknowledged there is a “steep curve in France around trade issues,” but says she has been encouraged by an uptick in the number of French businesses using and benefiting from CETA.
“In Canada we are way more comfortable doing trade, for our companies to do trade, internationally and vice-versa,” Hudon said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, this year’s G7 host, has played down any expectations of a unified front from the leaders — a legacy of last year’s acrimonious ending to the gathering in Quebec.
Instead of a final communique to wrap the summit, Macron is aiming to publish outcome documents for following agreements reached between individual countries on different issues, including free trade, gender equity and the environment — an attempt to avoid the fate of the 2018 summit in Charlevoix, Que., when Trump lashed out at Trudeau from the confines of Air Force One and scratched his name from the communique.
A final communique is not the most important thing for the G7 summit, Hudon argued. Getting the world’s Group of Seven leaders together to speak candidly about issues of joint interest — even if building consensus has become elusive, is more important, Hudon said.
“There’s a shift in what the G7 is becoming. That being said, that’s not a reason to stop the conversations.”
Tusk said the summit “will be a difficult test of unity and solidarity of the free world and its leaders” but urged G7 leaders to find unity not only on trade, but also on climate action, defending the rule of law and human rights and combating the threat of nuclear proliferation — rather than focusing on “senseless disputes among each other.”
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press