Trump sets fire to G7 pot

Claims US be­ing taken ad­van­tage of

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE -

BRUIS­ING for a fight, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump bar­relled into the Group of Seven sum­mit on Fri­day, con­fronting long-time US al­lies over a bur­geon­ing trade dis­pute and in­sist­ing Rus­sia should be brought back into the fold.

Trump joined the lead­ers of ma­jor in­dus­tri­alised na­tions af­ter days of es­ca­lat­ing con­flict over new US tar­iffs he slapped on im­ports of steel and alu­minum. Fac­ing crit­i­cism from in­creas­ingly dis­il­lu­sioned al­lies, he punched back, un­cowed by a grow­ing global out­cry.

“Look, all of these coun­tries have been tak­ing ad­van­tage of the US on trade,” Trump said, re­peat­ing his long-stand­ing com­plaints about trade deficits and tar­iffs. “We have to straighten it out.”

How­ever, Trump did seek to lower the tem­per­a­ture af­ter his ar­rival. He ban­tered eas­ily with Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, jok­ing that the neigh­bour­ing leader had “agreed to cut all tar­iffs and all trade barriers.”

And he em­pha­sised a “good re­la­tion­ship” with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, say­ing they have a “lit­tle test” on trade, but pre­dict­ing a pos­i­tive out­come.

Still, the dif­fer­ences re­mained clear. Trump again railed against trade deficits with other coun­tries and re­peated that he may pur­sue sep­a­rate ne­go­ti­a­tions with Canada and Mex­ico to re­place the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

Asked if Trudeau was up­set he’d be leav­ing early, Trump joked, “He’s happy.”

Macron said there had been “open and di­rect” dis­cus­sions, adding that he thought there was a way to get a “win-win” out­come on trade, though de­tails re­mained un­clear.

Be­fore ar­riv­ing at the meet­ing of the group, which some sug­gest Trump is push­ing from the G7 into “G6 plus one,” he fur­ther stirred the pot by ask­ing why Rus­sia was ex­cluded. “They should let Rus­sia come back in be­cause we should have Rus­sia at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble,” he said.

Rus­sia was ousted from the elite group in 2014 as pun­ish­ment for Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea and sup­port for pro-rus­sian sep­a­ratists in Ukraine.

In the US, spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Trump’s cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia in a bid to sway the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in his favour.

Cana­dian For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said the Rus­sia is­sue “hasn’t been raised around the G7 ta­ble,” though she said there have been “some di­rect con­ver­sa­tions in bi­lat­eral meet­ings”, adding “there are no grounds what­so­ever for bring­ing Rus­sia with its cur­rent be­hav­iour back into the G7.”

De­spite the ten­sion, the pres­i­dent was greeted cor­dially by Trudeau as he ar­rived at the an­nual gath­er­ing, held this year at a pic­turesque Que­bec re­sort. Other mem­bers of the G7 are France, Italy, Ja­pan, Ger­many and Bri­tain. The EU also at­tends.

Trump showed up late and left early yes­ter­day, head­ing to Sin­ga­pore for his meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

He spent Fri­day par­tic­i­pat­ing in the rituals of the G7, in­clud­ing the for­mal greet­ing by host Trudeau, a group photo in front of the sparkling St. Lawrence River and a work­ing lunch. – Ap/african News Agency (ANA)

PIC­TURE: FRAN­CIS MAS­CAREN­HAS/REUTERS/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Fire­fight­ers try to ex­tin­guish a blaze in a build­ing in Mum­bai, In­dia, yes­ter­day. Part of the build­ing col­lapsed, in­jur­ing two fire­fight­ers.

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