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Host Italy wants G7 to reject 'temptation' of protectionism at summit

ROME Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Tuesday that he wants to send a strong message in favour of free trade when he welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders in Italy in May.

Italy hosts the annual meeting of seven of the world’s biggest industrialised economies (G7) in the town of Taormina in Sicily on May 26-27. It will be Trump’s first scheduled trip to Europe.

Trump brandished strong protectionist rhetoric during his “America First” election campaign, saying it was necessary to save jobs.

He has already pulled out of a key Pacific trade agreement and proposed a new tax on imports, arguing that certain trade relationships need to be reworked to make them fairer for U.S. workers.

“It’s our hope that the G-7 in Taormina will send a message about the importance of international trade and against every protectionist temptation,” Gentiloni said after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Rome.

“Japan and Europe must collaborate with the United States to continue to hold high the free-trade flag,” Abe said.

As well as Japan, Italy and the United States, the G7 comprises Britain, France, Canada and Germany.

Gentiloni and Abe also called for a free trade deal to be reached quickly between Japan and the European Union. Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Abe made similar comments after meeting in Germany.

After meeting Merkel in Washington last week, Trump said he did not believe in isolationism but that trade policy must be more fair.

On Saturday, financial leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies (G20) dropped a long-held pledge to keep global trade free and open, acquiescing to the United States after failing to find a compromise.

Gentiloni also said he would push the G7 to favour dialogue over sanctions in its relations with Russia.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)