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G7 leaders can’t avoid trade talk at summit with Trump, says Canadian sherpa

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief G7 organizer says world leaders simply cannot avoid a discussion of thorny trade issues when they meet next month in Quebec.

Peter Boehm, the Canadian sherpa, didn’t mention Donald Trump by name Tuesday, but his comments came during a speech to a symposium focused on how to shape Canadian foreign policy in the age of the disruptive, protectionist influence of the current U.S. president.

“I’m afraid we can’t avoid a trade discussion in Charlevoix,” Boehm told the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“We’re aware that this is a challenging issue within the G7, particularly with the backdrop of steel and aluminum tariffs and NAFTA negotiations.”

Despite the challenges, Boehm said the G7 leaders may be able to reach an agreement on the need for a revitalized World Trade Organization.

In addition to Trump, Trudeau is scheduled to host counterparts from the world’s richest economies next month for two days of talks at a resort in Quebec’s Charlevoix region.

“Canada and its G7 partners need to remain committed to working together on strengthening the rules-based trading system, fighting protectionism and encouraging free trade so that all citizens can take advantage,” said Boehm.

The day-long gathering of foreign policy experts, diplomats and academics in Ottawa took place under the banner, “Positioning Canada in the Shifting International Order.”

That shift refers mainly to Trump and the wrecking ball that many say he has taken to the world’s multilateral trading institutions. One panel was titled, “Managing America First and the Trump Effect.”

Rona Ambrose, the former Conservative cabinet minister who is serving as an adviser on government’s non-partisan panel on NAFTA, told the gathering that Canadians can no longer adhere to the “romantic notion” that Canada and the U.S. remain best friends and allies.

That said, a deal on NAFTA that all three countries could live with is still possible, she insisted, crediting the Liberal government with doing everything it can do get a deal with the unpredictable Trump administration.

Peter Donolo, an ex-communications communications chief to former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien, said Trump won’t be satisfied with any NAFTA outcome that does not allow him to declare all-out victory.

“He needs to demonstrate that his opponents’ face has been ground into the dirt,” said Donolo.

“He will define a success as, ‘We’ve won, we’ve won big time; Canada and Mexico are eating dust; they’re eating dirt, they’re done; they’re humiliated.'”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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