Politics

G7 leaders agree to fight protectionism, but U.S. delays decision on climate agreement

The Group of Seven leaders have agreed to keep fighting protectionism, a win for the six countries who had been pushing U.S. President Donald Trump to come around to their view of free trade.

Trump says he'll make final decision next week on whether U.S. stays in Paris Agreement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump walk together during the G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy, Saturday. G7 leaders reached agreement on fighting trade protectionism, but Trump wasn't ready to say he'd back the commitments made in the Paris Agreement on climate change. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Group of Seven leaders have agreed to keep fighting protectionism, a win for the six countries that had been pushing U.S. President Donald Trump to come around to their view of free trade.

However, the deal Saturday acknowledges Trump's stance on trade and includes a statement that the leaders will keep markets open, but "stand firm against all unfair trade practices."

"We commit to adopting appropriate policies so that all firms and citizens can make the most of opportunities offered by the global economy," says the six-page final communique from the G7 summit in Sicily.

Front row from left to right: Nigeria's Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, Guinea's President and African Union President Alpha Conde, U.S. President Donald Trump, Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi pose for a 'family photo' at the summit.

On the issue of climate change, the communiqué says only six of the leaders, plus European Union leaders, agreed to stand by their commitment to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The document says the U.S. is still reviewing its policies on climate change and the Paris Agreement, which Trump had promised to back out of during his presidential campaign.

The communiqué notes the Americans are, thus, "not in a position to join consensus" on climate change.

Shortly before the communiqué came out, Trump issued a tweet saying he would make his "final decision" on the Paris Agreement next week.

'We didn't paper over anything' on climate change

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was later asked by a reporter whether he thought the G7 leaders had "simply papered over their differences of opinion" on climate change.

"I respect the right of any leader to make his or her own political or policy choices," Trudeau said.

"No one is going to tell me or Canada how Canada should be governed. Canadians decide that. Our policies are developed right here in Canada, and I expect others to do the same. But we didn't paper over anything. We said quite clearly that we understand that the United States is still reflecting on its approach to the Paris agreement, and I can assure you that President Trump is listening to what others have to say on the issue."

The leaders found agreement on other points, such as backing closer co-operation against terrorism after the concert bombing Monday in Manchester that killed 22 people.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, top and centre, talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a photo with G7 and African leaders at the G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday.

"We call upon all countries of the region to play a constructive role by contributing to efforts to achieve inclusive political solutions, reconciliation and peace, which are the only way to eradicate ISIL, other terrorist groups and violent extremism in the long-term in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and beyond," the communiqué says.

Trump called the summit a "tremendously productive meeting, where I strengthened American bonds."

Prime Minister Trudeau went into the talks championing the benefits of free trade and action on climate change, as well as inclusive growth and gender equality, which are expected to be the main themes of the G7 summit that Canada is hosting in the Charlevoix region of Quebec next year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for a working session with non-G7 countries and international organizations at the G7 summit. (Evan Vucci/Reuters)

Canada played a leadership role in pushing for the communiqué to include the language on fighting protectionism, the Paris Agreement, and in particular for the reference to gender equality being "fundamental to the fulfillment of human rights," according to a federal government source.

The G7 is an informal gathering that meets every year under a rotating chairmanship. Its decisions are not binding as an international treaty would be, simply representing the leaders' political commitment to carry through.

The Group of Seven countries are Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, the United States and the U.K. The European Union also attends.

After saying for months that members of NATO were not paying their fair share towards the military alliance, Trump said on Saturday that the "money is beginning to pour in."

Trump tweeted that NATO partners have begun stepping up payments "considerably."

Trudeau met with Trump on the margins of the summit on Saturday.

"We had great, frank discussions. I was always pleased to stand up for Canadian values and promote our interests throughout the discussions we had," Trudeau later told reporters. 

The two leaders "reaffirmed their commitment to the deepest economic partnership in the world," Cameron Ahmad, Trudeau's media spokesperson, said in a statement.

"Trade between our countries supports job creation on both sides of the border and the growth of the middle class, and in 2016 was valued at nearly $882 billion," the statement said.

Trudeau and Trump also discussed "a range of issues of mutual interest, including  international security."

"They stressed the importance of shared leadership on issues of global concern as a means to promote peace and prosperity."

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With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News

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