May 29, 2017
Tokyo- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe helped the latest Group of Seven summit back from the brink of a collapse by successfully persuading US President Donald Trump to agree to fight protectionism, sources familiar with the discussions said.
The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States have vowed to fight protectionism in joint statements issued at recent summits.
But Trump, who made his G-7 debut at the latest meeting in Taormina, Italy, had initially opposed including a pledge to fight protectionism in a leaders' statement. He thought that any message against protectionism amounts to criticism of the United States.
During their bilateral meeting held just before the start of the Taormina G-7 summit on Friday, Abe told Trump that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was criticizing bad protectionism by countries like China, not the policy of the US president.
Abe tried to persuade Trump to back down even during the final-day G-7 session on Saturday. At the last minute, Trump agreed to include a commitment to fight protectionism in the statement in exchange for having it also spell out a pledge to address unfair trade practices.
In their statement issued after the two-day summit, the G-7 leaders said, "We reiterate our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight protectionism, while standing firm against all unfair trade practices."
Abe, who had already built a relationship of trust with Trump, started visiting European countries in March to work as a bridge between the United States and Europe.
Abe's experience as a leader who was attending his sixth summit was also helpful in serving as a mediator between the US and European leaders.
A Japanese official said, "if Merkel and others had tried to persuade Trump, such efforts would have failed." "Things settled down because Abe played a role," the official said.
But trade is expected to remain a source of friction between the United States and the other G-7 countries because Trump's "America First" policy remains basically unchanged, sources familiar with the situation said. (Jiji Press)
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