G7 countries criticize US over steel tariffs | News | DW | 03.06.2018
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G7 countries criticize US over steel tariffs

G7 finance ministers have sent "a message of regret and disappointment" to President Donald Trump over his tariff decision. Meeting ahead of the main summit, they said there was still time to avoid a trade war.

Ahead of the G7 leaders' summit next week, finance ministers from six of the G7 countries have condemned the decision by the Trump administration to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

As the finance ministers and central bank governors met for the final day of a three-day meeting in Whistler, Canada, on Saturday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took the brunt of the criticism.

Read more: Tariffs: EU caught between desire for retaliation and calm

The six other G7 member nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK) — some of America's closest allies — are all subject to the US metals tariffs, which were imposed on the grounds of national security.

On Friday, both the EU and Canada filed challenges against the tariffs with the world's trade watchdog, the World Trade Organization. The bloc and the United States' northern neighbor are the largest sources of US steel and aluminum imports.

In a statement issued by Canada following the meeting, the finance officials agreed "decisive action is needed" on the tariff issue at the G7 leaders' summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, next week.

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'Rebalancing our trade relationships'

At a separate press conference, Mnuchin told reporters that he was not part of the summary statement and that Trump was focused on "rebalancing our trade relationships."

Read more: Trump's EU tariffs 'foolish' and 'damaging'

"I don't think in any way the US is abandoning its leadership in the global economy, quite the contrary. I think that we've had a massive effort on tax reform in the US which has had an incredible impact on the US economy," Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin said he had already passed on some of the G7 comments to Trump and said the president would address trade issues with other G7 leaders.

Read more: Opinion: US import tariffs — nerves of steel, round two

The G7 finance ministers (picture-alliance/The Canadian Press/J. Hayward)

The six finance ministers expressed 'total incomprehension' over the US move

Disagreement could hasten EU reforms

"We must find a way to get out of this," German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told reporters following the meeting. "That was said clearly by everyone and I think it was even taken on board" [by Mnuchin], he added.

Scholz said the disagreement with the US over steel and aluminum tariffs would strengthen the will of EU member states to speed up reforms in the bloc.

Read more: Trump's EU trade dilemma: United against China or alone against the world?

"There were several issues discussed at the G7 over which there was no agreement. That's really quite unusual in the history of the G7," he said.

As well as tariffs, EU countries told the US about their concern over the effect of new US sanctions on Iran for European companies that want to trade with both nations.

'US against everyone else'

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said he told Mnuchin it was "our absolute view that this is absurd that Canada could in any way be a security risk." 

"We're concerned that these actions are actually not conducive to helping our economy, they actually are destructive, and that is consistently held across the six countries that expressed their point of view to Secretary Mnuchin," Morneau added.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, whose country's steel and aluminum producers have been paying the US tariffs since March 23, labeled the US decision as "deeply deplorable," saying it was the "US against everyone else."

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said Mnuchin was alone on the tariff issue, with the group becoming a "G6 plus one" as the six expressed "total incomprehension" over the US move.

law/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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