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US under fire from G7 finance ministers over new tariffs

Delphine Touitou, AFP | Flags line the entrance to the G7 at the hotel Fairmont in Whistler, British Columbia on June 1, 2018.

The United States was in an isolated position at the end of the G7 ministerial summit in Canada on Saturday, as finance ministers from the world’s top economies expressed their opposition to new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

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Finance ministers urged US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to speak to the White House about their “unanimous concern and disappointments” regarding the tariffs.

"On trade, over the course of the last couple of days there was an important difference of opinion," Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau told reporters after hosting a meeting with his G7 counterparts in the mountain resort town of Whistler, British Columbia.

"The Americans have decided, in our mind, to take actions that's not at all constructive, it's actually destructive to our ability to get things done around tariffs on steel and aluminum," he said after the meeting ended.

Canada was not the only participant to express concern at Washington’s actions. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Saturday that the EU was ready to take counter-measures against the new tariffs.

"We still have a few days to take the necessary steps to avoid a trade war between the EU and the US, and to avoid a trade war among G7 members," Le Maire told reporters after the meeting wrapped up.

"The ball is in the camp of the United States, it is up to the American administration to take the right decisions to smooth the situation and to alleviate the difficulties," he added.

The US steel and aluminum tariffs were imposed early on Friday after Canada, Mexico and the EU refused to accept quotas in negotiations with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Japanese metal producers have been paying the tariffs since March 23.

Officials at the G7 meeting said the tariffs made it more difficult for the group to work together to confront China's trade practices, especially when Beijing, like most G7 members, supports the current World Trade Organization-based trade rules and the United States is seeking to go around them.

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