Top Group of Seven officials are gathering in Whistler this week amid growing concern that Canada is struggling to negotiate a final agreement that all seven countries can support.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing for an agenda that largely reflects the themes of his domestic policy, including the promotion of women in the work force and tackling income inequality.
But U.S. President Donald Trump is currently focused on other issues, including China’s trade policies and his on-again, off-again June 12 meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.
The Trudeau government is dismissing concerns that Mr. Trump’s protectionist “America First” agenda has disrupted planning ahead of next week’s G7 leaders’ summit in Charlevoix, Que., which will also be Mr. Trump’s first visit to Canada as President.
A Politico article published Wednesday quoted G7 sources saying talks have been “disconnected and unfocused” and that Canada has “no idea” how to handle the situation.
A senior Canadian government official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, rejected any concerns that Mr. Trump has derailed the G7 agenda. The official said Canada is still committed to focusing on its predetermined themes at the Charlevoix summit, including women’s empowerment, climate change, peace and security, economic growth and jobs for the future.
Another senior Canadian government official said the concerns raised in the Politico article are likely coming from Europe, which is frustrated by Mr. Trump’s protectionist trade policies. The official said the idea that Canada is at its wits’ end is spurious, as the G7 planning, including joint statements and a final communiqué, is on track.
In a statement Wednesday, PMO spokeswoman Chantal Gagnon said that despite some of their differences, G7 countries are all facing the same core problem, which is to make the economy work for everyone rather than just the wealthy.
“The policy prescriptions may be different in each country, but that challenge is at the core of what we are each facing internally and what we are facing as a world,” Ms. Gagnon said.
Another challenge in crafting a consensus is Italy’s ongoing political turmoil. Elections in March failed to produce a governing coalition and an effort this week to form a short-term caretaker government also failed. That prompted further market concern as investors question the country’s direction.
Meetings in Whistler this week include finance ministers, development ministers and central bankers of the G7.
Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s three day visit to B.C. comes at the end of a week in which he announced Ottawa is buying the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan at a cost of $4.5-billion in an effort to proceed with doubling the line’s capacity over the objections of the B.C. government.
Meanwhile Friday, June 1, is the deadline set by the United States for the imposition of new steel and aluminium tariffs on Canada and Mexico. The tariff threat has been used as a bargaining tool by the U.S. administration in a bid to reach a deal on renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement.
An earlier tariff deadline of May 1 was extended. U.S. Treasury officials told reporters in a briefing this week that while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is not the U.S. lead on the NAFTA file, he expects to discuss U.S. trade issues with his G7 colleagues in Whistler.
The Whistler summit includes public panel discussions Friday featuring Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde and former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin.
International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she will ask her G7 counterparts and finance ministers to consider partnerships with the private sector and pension funds in an attempt to diversify development aid financing.
“We want to talk about how we can be innovative in our financing mechanisms,” Ms. Bibeau said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
“We know that pension funds are looking at long-term return so they are more patient and we definitely can interest them.”
Mr. Trudeau has repeatedly highlighted gender equality as a central theme of Canada’s G7 presidency. Oxfam Canada’s executive director, Julie Delahanty, said in a statement that she will be looking for clear and specific pledges in this area.
“Gender inequality and economic inequality are directly linked,” she said. “Canada needs to lead the G7 in tackling the barriers that keep women at the bottom of the economic ladder.”
The Canadian Press