In Nod to Trump, G-7 Leaders Make Joint Statement on Fair Trade

August 26, 2019 Updated: August 27, 2019

Leaders of the Group of Seven issued a declaration on Aug. 26 committing to fair trade, a term President Donald Trump has frequently employed in his campaign to rebalance the United States’ global trade relationships.

French President Emmanuel Macron released the declaration at the end of a three-day G-7 summit in Biarritz, France. The statement emphasized “great unity” among the leaders and expressed their commitment to “open and fair global trade and the stability of the global economy.”

Macron issued the declaration hours after Trump announced that China is eager to make a deal. The message from China came the day after the White House said the president might have regretted not raising tariffs on China even more. Trump has accused China of employing unfair trade practices, and he imposed several waves of tariffs to force the communist regime to agree to a fair deal.

“I do think that privately these other G-7 leaders were grateful that the United States was again taking the lead,” said James Roberts, a research fellow at the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. “So I think this resolution where the French kind of did acknowledge some of the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s position on trade was good.”

The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies. The trade spat between the two countries has cooled global markets while the U.S. economy continues to soar.

“Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Aug. 23. “As President, I can no longer allow this to happen! In the spirit of achieving Fair Trade, we must Balance this very unfair Trading Relationship.”

Trump noted on Aug. 26 that the United States is either discussing, negotiating, or finalizing trade deals with several key allies, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the EU.

Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Aug. 25 announced an agreement, in principle, to a U.S.–Japan trade deal. The measure is expected have a positive impact on roughly half of U.S. agricultural and ranch exports to Japan. The deal will also impact industrial tariffs and digital trade, according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Trump noted that the United States is negotiating a trade deal with the EU and is close to ratifying the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), a replacement for the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The president also used the G-7 summit to discuss a post-Brexit bilateral deal with the UK.

“When we get these deals done, our country will be transformed,” Trump said. “I mean, it will be monetarily transformed. It’s such a difference between the horrible, horrible one-sided deals that we had in the past. And, frankly, past administrations should be ashamed of themselves for allowing that.”

According to Roberts, Trump’s clearing up trade issues with allies can help project the message to China that the United States has a unified front with G-7 leaders. The Group of Seven was formed the 1970s in part to resist the threat from the Soviet Union while ensuring that democratic nations could trade freely and prosper.

“Now we’re all facing this threat from China, so the G-7 proved that it is still relevant,” Roberts said.

Simon Lester, associate director of the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, said that while the language in the G-7 resolution matches Trump’s rhetoric, the same terms have been in use for a long time.

“It’s a common thing that people say just to cover all the bases, and it leaves sort-of vague. If you state it that broadly, it could mean anything,” Lester said. “So it’s good diplomatic language just to make everybody happy.”

According to Lester, the resolution wouldn’t have any impact on the trade war between China and the United States. Lester believes the Trump administration is engaged in a trade war with allies due to the steel and aluminum tariffs Trump imposed in 2018 as well as the threat of additional tariffs the administration is using as leverage in negotiations.

“The Trump administration is fighting a trade war with China but also with Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Japan,” Lester said.

Trump has said he is open to completely free trade but has to resort to tariffs to secure fair deals for the United States.

While trade issues appeared to dominate the summit, the G-7 leaders also discussed admitting Russia back to the group and ways to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Trump believes Russian President Vladimir Putin should be part of the next summit, which Trump wants to hold in Doral, Florida. Russia was ejected from the G-8 in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Macron invited the Iranian foreign minister to Biarritz in a bid for a breakthrough in the stalemate with the United States. Trump didn’t meet the foreign minister but said he would be open to meeting with the Iranian president. The Iranian foreign minister met with some of the G-7 leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the meeting as a “big step forward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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