Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled aside U.S. President Donald Trump on the final day of the G7 summit for a brief discussion about global security and the North American free-trade agreement.
Officials provided little information on the discussions that took place at the summit that is being held in the Sicilian resort town of Taormina.
“The Prime Minister and the President reaffirmed their commitment to the deepest economic partnership in the world. 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,” Mr. Trudeau’s office said in a statement.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders also discussed a range of mutual interests including international security and the “the importance of shared leadership on issues of global concern as a means to promote peace and prosperity.”
Mr. Trump has given a 90-day notice to Congress to fulfill his campaign pledge to renegotiate NAFTA – with talks expected to begin in late August. The leaders of the world’s seven industrialized nations met Saturday with African heads of state to discuss the flood of refugees into Europe, especially Italy.
“Today our discussions on Africa will focus on the need for a partnership across all sectors … with innovation and development our core objects,” Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in opening remarks.
President Trump, who was sitting between the leaders of Niger and Tunisia, did not put on headphones to listen to the simultaneous translation. He has resisted a proposal from Italy for the G7 to help shoulder the burden of African refugees arriving on Sicily’s shores.
The White House budget includes big cuts to America’s foreign aid and Mr. Trump has shown no inclination to take in more refugees. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit, he blamed migrants from the Middle East and Africa for the rise in terrorism in Europe.
In contrast, Prime Minister Trudeau has redirected Canadian aid to Africa and pushed for global solutions to the migrant crisis. On Saturday he met individually with Alpha Condé, President of Guinea and Chairperson of the African Union, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Unlike past G7 summits, known for collaboration and co-operation, the Sicily meeting has been marked by discord over climate change, trade and migrants, but unity on the need to combat global terrorism in the wake of the bloody bombing in Manchester.
Diplomats from Canada, Britain, the U.S., Japan, Germany, France and Italy worked late into the night to reach agreement on a final communiqué, which one Canadian official said was expected to be little more than six pages long, against 32 pages at last year’s summit in Japan.
Mr. Trump stood isolated at the G7 summit Friday, pushing back at intense efforts by Mr. Trudeau and fellow world leaders to persuade the U.S. President to back the 2015 Paris climate accord.
On the touchy issue of the Paris emissions accord, the G7 leaders failed to make any headway with Mr. Trump, who had campaigned against the treaty signed by former U.S. president Barack Obama.
Fresh off the U.S. President’s abrasive scolding of NATO leaders for not spending enough on defence, Mr. Trump was in no mood for compromise when he sat down with Mr. Trudeau and the leaders of Britain, Italy, Germany, Japan and France.
“There is no doubt that this will be the most challenging G7 summit in years,” European Union Council President Donald Tusk told a news conference. “It is no secret that the leaders meeting [Friday] sometimes have different positions on topics such as climate change and trade.”
Mr. Trump told the gathering he needed more time to consider whether to follow through on his pledge to exit the Paris accord.
“His views are evolving,” White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said. “He came here to learn. He came here to get smart.”
But Mr. Cohn also said the Paris emission targets “would be highly crippling to U.S. economic growth.”
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr. Trump was unmoved by arguments in favour of the Paris deal. He plans to make a decision on whether to withdraw when he returns to the United States.
“The United States is considering its position … but there was no doubt around the table about how important the issue on climate change is and we are all very clear about that and about how the Paris agreement plays in that,” Ms. May said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Mr. Trudeau pushed hard to convince the President that the Paris treaty should not be abandoned. But no matter what the U.S. does, Canada will stick with the accord.
“We believe climate change is one of the greatest threats facing Canadians and the world and it is a threat which is a global threat and which needs global solutions,” Ms. Freeland told reporters.
On trade, Mr. Trump, who campaigned on an anti-free-trade agenda, torpedoed the long-standing commitment of global powers to resist protectionism, forcing the leaders to work behind the scenes to water down the language in support of rules-based liberalized trade.
“On the major theme of global trade, we are still working on the shape of the final communiqué, but it seems to me the direct discussions today have produced common positions that we can work on,” the Italian Prime Minister said.
Mr. Trump wants a firm commitment to fair trade that benefits the U.S. in the final communiqué but the G7 countries want him to support a trade system in which World Trade Organization rules are honoured. “Canada believes very strongly in a rules-based trading order. We are a trading nation and we are also going to stand up for that,” Ms. Freeland said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also complained to Mr. Trump for calling Germany “bad, very bad” during a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, saying it is flooding the U.S. market with cars.
Ms. Merkel told reporters she had pulled aside the U.S. President to say his criticism was “inappropriate.”
However, the G7 leaders did sign a statement, deploring the deadly Manchester bombing and calling on Internet companies to do more to identify and remove extremist material.
The leaders’ final communiqué on Saturday is expected to pledge unity in dealing with nuclear-armed North Korea and Russian aggression against Ukraine.
“Invading a country in Europe and annexing its territory is a very grave threat to the rule-based, postwar order here in Europe,” Ms. Freeland said.
Canada will play host to next year’s summit, which is expected to be held in Charlevoix, Que. The Prime Minister will make the official announcement at a wrap-up news conference on Saturday.