G7 leaders divided on climate change, closer on trade issues

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Under pressure from Group of Seven allies, US President Donald Trump backed a pledge to fight protectionism on Saturday, but refused to endorse a global climate change accord, saying he needed more time to decide.

The summit of G7 wealthy nations pitted Trump against the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan on several issues, with European diplomats frustrated at having to revisit questions they had hoped were long settled.

However, diplomats stressed there was broad agreement on an array of foreign policy problems, including the renewal of a threat to slap further economic sanctions on Russia if its interference in neighbouring Ukraine demanded it.

“We are satisfied by how things went,” said Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, while acknowledging splits with Washington in some areas. “We do not disguise this division. It emerged very clearly in our conversations.”

Trump himself hailed what he called “a tremendously productive meeting”, saying he had strengthened US ties with longstanding partners.

The president, who has previously called global warming a hoax, came under concerted pressure from the other leaders to honour the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions.

Disappointment over the Paris Agreement was countered by relief when Trump agreed on Saturday to language in the final G7 communique that pledged “to fight all forms of protectionism” and committed to a rules-based international trade system.

During his election campaign, Trump threatened unilateral tariffs on Mexican and Chinese goods and said he would quit the North American Free Trade agreement unless it was renegotiated to his liking. Earlier this week he called Germany “very bad” on trade because of its US surplus.

In a tweet after his plane took off, Trump said he had had “great meetings on everything, especially on trade”, highlighting the part of the communique which called “for the removal of all trade-distorting practices”.

He made no mention of protectionism.

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