Theresa May and her fellow G7 leaders have ramped up the pressure on Donald Trump to stand by the communique agreed at last weekend’s chaotic summit in Canada.
Downing Street said the prime minister “fully intended” to honour the agreement signed by the G7 leaders, which Trump disowned after leaving the gathering, launching a personal attack on the Canadian prime minister as he did so.
Germany’s Angela Merkel described Trump’s behaviour as “sobering and slightly depressing” and suggested international leaders should be more polite to each other.
“The situation is not pleasant,” Merkel told German television in a rare and lengthy interview. “I don’t think that taking the rhetoric up a few notches is going to make things much better.”
World leaders at the summit believed they had a deal until the US president pulled out of the previously agreed communique, which represented a minimal show of unity amid deep disagreements between Trump and the other leaders over trade.
Frustrations had been mounting over Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement and most recently to change the rules over trade tariffs on steel and aluminium.
The US nevertheless appeared to have agreed to a form of words on contentious issues thanks to an all-night negotiating session by officials from all sides. US reporters travelling on Air Force One to the far east only discovered when the plane landed on the Greek island of Crete to refuel that the president had changed his mind.
May’s official spokesman said: “The communique was agreed by all the parties who attended the G7. We fully intend to honour it. We would hope that the US will similarly honour the commitments that they have made.
“We have regular engagement with the president and that will be continuing in the coming months. Obviously he’ll be visiting the UK shortly.”
The communique said the leaders of the US, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism. “We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies,” the statement said.
Like last year, the communique made it clear that the US had a different view on climate change and how to fight it from that of the other six leaders, increasingly being referred to informally as the G6.
No 10 sources revealed that although the prime minister did not have a bilateral meeting with Trump while in Quebec, the pair had spoken “in the margins” of the summit about the president’s trip to Britain in July.
That visit will come straight after a Nato summit in Brussels, where Trump is expected to increase pressure on other Nato countries to join the US and UK in committing at least 2% of their GDP to defence spending.
Trump is believed to have his eye on Germany, in particular, which is the largest economy in the eurozone. Merkel admitted that Trump “has a point” over Germany’s comparatively low defence budget, which stands at around 1.1% of GDP. Germany is not set to hit the 2% target before 2030.
The German chancellor, not one to show her emotions but who has been increasingly frank over her frustrations towards Trump, did not hide her disappointment at having failed to persuade him to change his mind, particularly over the issue of trade tariffs.
“Sometimes I have the impression that the US president believes that only one side wins while the other loses,” Merkel told the public TV interviewer Anne Will. She said in contrast she preferred to see situations as “win-win”.
She said she would continue to engage with Trump in the hope of winning him round to her point of view. She said the obvious tensions that had dominated the summit did not make her any less committed to the transatlantic relationship, but she said it was no longer something Germany could rely on.
Merkel insisted Trump would not be allowed to have the upper hand, particularly regarding the trade tariffs. The EU’s decision to hit back with retaliatory tariffs was indicative that EU members “won’t let ourselves be repeatedly taken advantage of,” she said.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010