LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May will appeal for freer and fairer trade and launch a defence of the rules-based international system at this week’s meeting of G7 leaders set to be dominated by the bitter row over U.S. metals tariffs.
The meeting on Friday and Saturday in Charlevoix, Quebec, will be the first chance G7 leaders have had to confront U.S. President Donald Trump in person since he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union last week.
It is expected to be a divided summit with little prospect of any appeasement that would soothe market fears of a tit-for-tat trade war.
May will set out her argument during a session on the global economy and is expected to make the case against the tariffs directly with President Trump during the summit, although no formal bilateral meeting has yet been announced.
“We need to take steps to make the international trading system work better to ensure all our citizens can share in the benefits of the global economy,” May is expected to say according to a senior UK government official.
The prime minister will also say the World Trade Organisation must implement “more efficient processes to ensure freer and fairer trade around the world”.
May told Trump earlier week she was deeply disappointed by the tariffs, which Trump’s administration says are justified on national security grounds.
May’s trip to Canada is set against a deeply uncertain domestic backdrop as she struggles to keep her cabinet together on Brexit and make progress towards a vital deal with the EU ahead of Britain’s departure from the bloc next year.
But she will look to draw on one of her few recent political successes to rally support among the G7 group of industrialised nations which brings together Canada, the United States, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany.
Citing the coordinated international response against Russia to the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain, May will look to reinforce the importance of what she calls the ‘international rules-based system’.
She is expected to criticise Russia, which was kicked out of the then-G8 in 2014 after annexing Crimea, and stress the need to counter the Kremlin’s “disinformation” during a session on protecting democracy.
“An important part of what distinguishes the G7 is our common belief in defending democracy, free and fair global trade, human rights and the equal value in every citizens’ voice,” she is expected to say.
May will also use the G7 themes of ocean preservation and women’s empowerment to make domestic policy announcements.
Editing by Stephen Addison