The US president made the surprise comments as he was leaving a fractious gathering of the Group of Seven industrialised nations in Canada.
“No tariffs, no barriers — that’s the way it should be. And no subsidies,” Mr Trump said at a brief press conference before departing from the G7 summit at the Québec resort town of La Malbaie. “We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing, it’s got to end.”
The idea left western allies flummoxed given that Washington has just announced punitive metal tariffs against major partners including the EU and Canada — prompting concerns about a global trade war. One European official at the talks said the response to the president’s proposal was one of surprise and scepticism. Mr Trump himself said that his partners were now going to have to go “back to the drawing board”.
The US president first floated the idea of a G7 free-trade zone on Friday afternoon behind closed doors at a meeting on the global economy between the leaders, according to officials. It came after Mr Trump wrongfooted his allies by suggesting shortly before he arrived at the summit that Russia should be readmitted to the G7.