G-7 Leaders Agree to Maintain Sanctions on Russia, Fight Protectionism -- Update

TAORMINA, Italy -- The Group of Seven nations struck deals on sanctions against Russia and global trade, overcoming tensions on two issues that threatened to pit U.S. President Donald Trump against the other six leaders.

In his first meeting with the leaders of the world's biggest democracies, Mr. Trump surprised some of his counterparts, coming across as a willing negotiator who delved into the fine print of the discussions.

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"Believe it or not, he was even interested in what diplomats call 'drafting' -- changing words and adjectives in statements," said Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

"I saw someone who is listening and who wants to work," said French President Emmanuel Macron.

Yet Mr. Trump refused to give assurances on one of their top priorities: keeping the U.S. in the Paris climate agreement, which calls for nations around the world to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Now, the leaders are hoping that Mr. Trump's pragmatism will dissuade him from following through on a campaign pledge to pull the U.S. out of the deal.

"A few weeks ago, we thought that the U.S. was going to leave the Paris climate agreement," Mr. Macron said. "I think there has been progress, real discussions and real debate."

On the rest of the agenda, the leaders found consensus on subjects where Mr. Trump had previously taken positions at odds with much of the international community. The nations agreed at a summit to maintain sanctions on Russia for its interference in Ukraine until the conditions of a peace process negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, are fulfilled.

"We also stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia should its actions so require," according to a statement prepared by the seven leaders.

Mr. Macron is hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Paris in their first meeting of Mr. Macron's presidency.

"Talking with Russia is indispensable," Mr. Macron said, "because there are a number of problems that won't be solved without forceful discussions with the Russians, particularly on the question of Syria.

"I'll talk to him about that, without concessions on Ukraine," he added.

On trade policy, the leaders agreed to "fight protectionism" and backed the World Trade Organization as enforcer of global trade rules.

"We commit to working together to improve the functioning of the WTO, to ensure full and transparent implementation and effective and timely enforcement of all WTO rules by all members," according to the leaders' statement.

Mr. Trump's previous rhetoric on the two issues has unnerved America's closest allies. He has called for closer ties with the Kremlin and repeatedly threatened to block imports from America's trade partners, most recently Germany.

"Talks on trade have allowed us to make significant steps forward," Mr. Gentiloni said. "[We reached] a compromise between the need to defend the categories of those penalized by globalization and the principles defending free trade."

Write to Matthew Dalton at Matthew.Dalton@wsj.com and Giovanni Legorano at giovanni.legorano@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 27, 2017 13:40 ET (17:40 GMT)