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LONDON — Leaders of the world’s leading economies who are meeting in Italy for the annual Group of Seven (G7) summit remain divided on trade issues and climate action, but are likely to find a compromise on refugees and immigration, a diplomatic source in Sicily, where the G7 is being held, told BuzzFeed News.
On trade, the US continues to refuse to include a reference to the multilateral system that underpins the rules-based global trading order in a statement the leaders are going to sign on Saturday. The Trump administration is arguing instead for recognizing a plurality of trading systems, such as bilateral trade agreements.
The diplomat described German chancellor Angela Merkel as the “star” of the discussion about trade, putting on a very strong defense of the free trade position (which is also backed by the leaders of Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the UK), and in making the case for open markets.
Meanwhile, on climate and whether President Donald Trump will back the Paris agreement, the diplomat said the leaders’ statement is likely to include an acknowledgement that the US is reviewing its position. The source told BuzzFeed News that the leaders focussed their case above all on the longer term economic gains between a trade-off in adaptation costs and the benefits of de-carbonizing economies. The point was driven primarily by French president Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump listened to the arguments attentively, the source said.
The US president is not expected to make a decision about the future of the Paris deal in Sicily. White House advisor Gary Cohn told reporters that the president professed to the other six leaders that the environment was very important to him, and claimed the president's views of the Paris climate deal were "evolving".
At a press conference after the talks Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni said the question of the Paris accord was still hanging. While Chancellor Merkel described the day's discussions with Trump as "intensive", and said the US president had made clear that he had not yet made a decision about the climate agreement and would not do so in Sicily, but would rather continue to work on clarifying the US position.
EU leaders have made clear they don't want to see the Paris deal watered down.
Elsewhere, the seven leaders are expected to agree on compromise language about refugees and immigration.
One the one hand, the leaders’ statement is set to include reference to security and economic arguments put forward by the US and the UK that reaffirm countries’ sovereign right to controlling their borders and limiting migration levels.
But the document is now also likely to include a commitment to working in partnership to tackle the causes of immigration flows. The leaders’ statement is also likely to outline support for an approach that distinguishes between emergencies and longer-term trends, and includes both refugees and economic migrants. The inclusion of collaborative principles would be a small diplomatic win for Italy, the summit's host, whose officials had been pushing hard to make migration and refugees central to the summit but such plans were hampered by the US.
Earlier in the day, the G7 leaders signed a “Statement on the Fight Against Terrorism and Violent Extremism” calling on social networks to crack down on terroristic and extremist content.
The source said the day’s discussions had taken place in a positive environment, and there weren’t any tense moments. The leaders’ statement is still a draft, and the various positions and exact wording may change before the seven leaders agree to a final version on Saturday. Work on the document was expected to carry on into the evening.