Group of Seven finance ministers ended their annual
meeting with US allies united in condemning Washington's aggressive
protectionism, calling on President Donald Trump to reverse his decision to
impose punishing metal tariffs.
The lack of common ground meant
the dispute would continue into next week's G7 summit in Quebec, Canada, where
Trump is expected to face other heads of state as the global economy verges on
outright trade conflict. At this snow-capped mountain resort north of
Vancouver, British Columbia, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was the odd
man out. Major trading partners rebuked Trump's multi-front trade offensive
while their governments announced countermeasures and legal challenges.
One after another, finance
ministers and central bankers spoke of exasperation and an abiding sense of
betrayal by a longtime ally. Mnuchin, however, downplayed the disagreements and
said the United States was committed to the G7 process.
Announcing the meeting's close,
Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the host government and five others
had urged Mnuchin to relay their "unanimous concern and
disappointment." "We said that we were collectively hoping that he
would bring the message back of regret and disappointment at the American
actions and concern that they are not constructive," said Morneau.
French Finance Minister Bruno
Le Maire also expressed France's outrage as the meetings ended. "I want to
make it clear," Le Maire said, "that it is up to the US
administration to make the right decisions to alleviate the situation and ease
the difficulties." Avoiding trade war "will depend on the decision
the (US) administration is ready to take in the next few days and in the next
few hours -- I'm not talking about weeks ahead," he added.
German Finance Minister Olaf
Scholz told reporters the US tariffs were "a very severe problem" for
transatlantic relations. "No one understands that due to security reasons
there should be extra tariffs on steel and aluminum," he said.
Trump's tariffs on America's
largest foreign providers of the crucial metals that went into effect Friday
upended the agenda for this normally convivial event for consensus-building
among countries that account for about half of global GDP. No joint final
statement emerged from the G7 ministerial meeting, a sign of the strong discord
now at the heart of the global economy. How the White House would deal with
this remained unclear.
As the ministers' meet ended,
Trump was as bellicose as ever, taking to Twitter to denounce "stupid
trade" in which he said the US saw foreign tariffs on its exports without
responding in kind. "When you're almost 800 Billion Dollars a year down on
Trade, you can't lose a Trade War! The US has been ripped off by other
countries for years on Trade, time to get smart!" he wrote.
Counting trade in goods and
services, the US trade deficit was $566 billion in 2017, a 12 percent increase
marking its highest level since the 2008 Great Recession. Chairing a meeting on
Friday, Morneau allowed participants to register grievances with Mnuchin one at
a time, according to a Canadian source. Behind closed doors, sources briefed on
the talks said Mnuchin listened but spoke little, saying instead the discussion
could continue at next week's G7 summit in the French-speaking province of
Quebec at which Trump is expected to participate.
Mnuchin said he had informed
Trump of his discussions but that trade was only one of many issues on a full
agenda. "These are our most important allies or some of our most important
allies. We've had long-standing relationships with all these countries that are
very important across all different aspects," Mnuchin told reporters.
"I believe there was a comment out there that this was the G6 plus one. It
was not. This was the G7. We believe in the G7." The week's whirlwind global
developments in trade suggested a quick de-escalation was unlikely.
Trump has suggested the
24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement might be scrapped in favor of
seeking bilateral agreements with Canada and Mexico. G7 governments were also
digesting Trump's threats to impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars
in US auto imports on purported national security grounds.
In China, US Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross was conducting trade talks with Chinese officials even as
Washington finalizes planned sanctions on Beijing. Potential measures include
restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States, new export controls
and 25 percent tariffs on about $50 billion in tech-sector goods. The talks
come despite the Trump administration's apparent announcement last month of a
truce with Beijing following talks in Washington last month. China has
threatened to hit back with tit-for-tat tariffs on tens of billions of dollars
in US goods -- as have Canadian, EU and Mexican authorities.