The United States has been singled out by some of its closest allies over the imposition of tariffs that they warn will undermine open trade and weaken confidence in the global economy.
The dispute over US president Donald Trump’s new levies on steel and aluminium imports is driving a wedge in the G7 group of industrial nations.
Following Saturday’s conclusion of a three-day meeting of G7 finance ministers, Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau issued a summary saying the other six members want Mr Trump to hear their message of “concern and disappointment” over the US trade actions.
Allies including Canada and the European Union are threatening retaliatory tariffs.
The G7 ministers urged US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin to deliver their message before leaders of the group’s member countries meet next week in Quebec.
Ministers urged the US to abandon the tariffs ahead of the leaders’ summit before the move causes deeper divisions within the G7.
“The international community is faced with significant economic and security issues, which are best addressed through a united front from G7 countries,” said the summary, which was agreed to by the attending ministers.
“Members continue to make progress on behalf of our citizens, but recognize that this collaboration and co-operation has been put at risk by trade actions against other members,” it added.
Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance and economy minister, was blunt in his assessment of the Whistler meeting, where ministers confronted Mr Mnuchin.
“It has been a tense and tough G7 — I would say it’s been far more a G6 plus one than a G7,” said Le Maire, who called the tariffs unjustified.
“We regret that our common work together at the level of the G7 has been put at risk by the decisions taken by the American administration on trade and on tariffs,” he said.
Mnuchin disagreed with Le Maire.
“I think there was a comment out there that (this was) the G6 plus one. It was not… We believe in the G7, it’s an important group,” Mr Mnuchin said at his own news conference.
“I’m sure that the president looks forward to coming to Canada and meeting all the other leaders with many, many important issues going on throughout the world.”
Mr Morneau, who presided at the ministerial meeting in Whistler, said even though the group found common ground on many subjects, G7 members are now forced to do whatever they can to persuade Trump to withdraw the tariffs.
“They actually are destructive. And that’s consistently held across the six countries that expressed their point of view to Secretary Mnuchin,” Mr Morneau told reporters.
The US president has said the tariffs are needed to protect US steel and aluminium industries vital to the nation’s security.
Mr Morneau has called the tariffs “absurd”, saying Canadian metal sales are no security risk to the US. He warns the measures will destroy jobs on both sides of the border.
Mr Le Maire said it is up to the US to take action to rebuild confidence among G7 members and to avoid any escalation during the leaders’ summit next week.
That meeting, which will be hosted by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, will be Mr Trump’s first visit to Canada as president.