(Adds comments from May on U.S. tariffs and free trade)
By William James
CANADIAN FORCES BASE BAGOTVILLE, Quebec, June 7 (Reuters) - B ritish Prime Minister Theresa May will not hold a formal bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 summit, but she will have meetings with each of the other leaders attending the summit, May’s officials said on Thursday.
The summit on Friday and Saturday in Charlevoix, Quebec, will be the first chance that G7 leaders will have to confront Trump in person since he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union last week.
After details of May’s current schedule for the trip were distributed to journalists travelling with her to Canada, officials confirmed that no formal bilateral with Trump was expected. They did not rule out a one-to-one meeting in a different format.
May signalled that Britain wanted the European Union to use restraint in its retaliation to the U.S. tariffs and said she would continue to promote the benefits of free trade.
“Obviously the European Union will be responding. We want to ensure, and we’re working with others in the European Union to ensure, that that response is proportionate, that it is within the WTO rules,” she told reporters.
“As the United Kingdom ... we want to be a great champion for free trade around the world and that’s what we will continue to be,” she added.
Britain’s impending departure from the EU and its desire to put a trade deal with the United States at the heart of its post-Brexit global strategy have left May in an awkward position. To limit the long-term damage of a tit-for-tat trade row she has to keep Trump onside without appearing weak and at the same time fulfil Britain’s role
“I will continue to put the argument for the importance of those trade relationships around the world, and I’ll be doing that here at the G7 as I have done elsewhere and will continue to do so elsewhere as well,” she said.
During a 25 minute briefing with journalists aboard her Royal Air Force jet, May twice singled Trump out for praise, on both his contribution to pressuring tech companies about online extremism at last year’s G7, and his diplomatic progress on North Korea. (Reporting by William James Editing by Leslie Adler)