G7 ministers vent frustration at US tariffs

Ahead of next week’s G7 summit finance ministers from the world’s largest economies warned of an impending trade war

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump

Finance leaders from countries with the world’s largest economies have expressed their frustration at the US President Donald Trump’s administration’s metal import tariffs, at the end of a three-day meeting ahead of next week’s G7 summit.

On Thursday, a temporary exemption on new tariffs – 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium expired, with the Trump administration insisting that not enough progress had been made in talks with the European Union, Canada and Mexico to warrant holding off from imposing the tariffs.

Following the meeting six of the seven nations issued a statement on Saturday expressing their “unanimous concern and disappointment” at the tariffs.

“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,” Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said at a news conference on Saturday.

Japanese Finance minister Taro Aso said that Japan had refused to accept import quotas, adding that while he had been to many similar meetings but it was “a very rare case where opposition against the United States was unanimous”.

However, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted that Trump was focused on “rebalancing” the US’ trade relationships.

He said he had already relayed some of the G7 comments to Trump and added that the U.S. president would address trade issues with other G7 leaders, but declined to speculate on any outcomes.

Canada and Mexico, which are embroiled in talks with the United States to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, responded to the move by announcing levies of their own on a variety of U.S. exports.

The EU is set to retaliate with tariffs on a range of U.S. goods, from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to jeans and bourbon.

France's Bruno Le Maire warned a trade war could begin in "a few days", while his president Emanuel Macron has insisted that the tariffs were illegal.

Meanwhile US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing to try to ease trade tensions.

Afterwards China warned that all trade talks with the US would be void if Washington introduced sanctions.

The Trump administration’s tariffs have also been criticized by prominent US Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who described the move as one that targets the US’ allies, and does little to address unfair trading practices of countries like China.

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