The Latest: Taormina residents get close view of G-7 leaders

TAORMINA, Sicily (AP) — The Latest on the G-7 summit in Taormina, Sicily (all times local):

3 p.m.

Residents of the hilltop Sicilian town of Taormina are cheering and waving as the leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies pass by — a rarity for global summits, where ordinary people are usually kept far away for security reasons.

Crowds lined the route as Donald Trump and the other six G-7 leaders made their way from Taormina’s famed ancient Greek theater, where they took the traditional G-7 photo, to the five-star San Domenico Palace, where meetings were taking place The leaders made a brief stop along the way to take in a breathtaking view of the sea.

While most people were kept far from the summit site, residents of Taormina, a town of 11,000, were given accreditation passes to wear around their necks, allowing them to stay at home during the two-day summit.

One man toted his groceries through the crowd, and two little girls in white T-shirts were waving at the leaders.

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2:35 p.m.

Germany is rejecting U.S. suggestions that bilateral deals might be possible between the U.S. and European Union members.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the EU “has a common trade policy that is implemented by the European Commission.”

He says in the last 50 years the EU has “done very well as an increasingly big and powerful economic bloc by agreeing trade deals for the (entire) union and for individual member states.”

He also says it could be a “thorn in the side” of the U.S. government that the EU is “probably a stronger and more powerful trade bloc than the United States of America or NAFTA.” Schaefer says the EU has no reason for “be sad about this, it’s what makes us strong.”

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2:15 p.m.

Germany is rejecting a U.S. official’s assertion that efforts to combat climate change will harm economic growth.

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn was reported to have said that economic considerations would prevail if they collide with measures to curtail global warming under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Asked about the comments Friday, a spokesman for Germany’s environment ministry says “we expressly don’t share the view that protecting the climate harms economic growth.”

Nikolai Fichtner says Germany sees protecting the climate as “a modernization program for national economies. And the key question is whether one is part of this early on or not.”

As G-7 leaders gathered in Sicily, Fichtner says Germany is “lobbying at all levels right now for the U.S. to remain in the Paris Agreement” on fighting climate change.

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1:40 p.m.

A German government spokesman says trade surpluses like the one that’s provoking President Donald Trump’s ire are the result of market factors and are “neither good nor bad.”

Spokesman Georg Streiter didn’t comment directly on a report that Trump called Germany “bad, very bad” on trade because of the success of German companies in selling autos and other goods to U.S. customers.

But, speaking in Berlin, Streiter said Germany’s current account surplus — the broadest measure of trade and investment flows — reflects economic factors that the German government can’t directly do anything about.

He said it was “also caused by factors that cannot, or at least cannot directly, be influenced by economic or financial policy measures in Germany, for example the oil price, the euro exchange rate, but also structural factors such as demographic developments.”

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1:20 p.m.

The Italian air force’s Frecce Tricolori acrobatics team is putting on a show for the G-7 summit, streaming the colors of the Italian flag over the sea as the leaders watch from garden in Sicily.

U.S. President Donald Trump, and the leaders of six other wealthy democracies — France, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada — are in Taormina, Sicily for this year’s G-7 summit at the 5-star San Domenico Palace hotel.

The top issues of the two-day meeting Friday and Saturday are climate change, security, trade and immigration — and the differences between the leaders are substantial.

Endorsing measures to combat terror is expected to find easy agreement, however, especially after the attack on a pop concert killed 22 people Monday night in Manchester.

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12:55 p.m.

Environmental activists have staged protests on a beach and at sea near the Sicilian hilltop town of Taormina, where leaders of the world’s seven wealthiest democracies were meeting.

Greenpeace and Oxfam members carried out stunts on the seafront of Giardini Naxo on Friday to urge the Group of Seven leaders to fight climate change, one of the most problematic issues on the agenda of the two-day meeting.

Greenpeace activists on eight kayaks unfurled banners at sea with messages including “Planet Earth first.” On shore they unveiled a 4-meter (13-foot) Statue of Liberty in a life jacket that symbolized the plight of migrants and the threat of rising seas, one effect of climate change.

Oxfam activists wore masks representing the seven leaders and had a banner with the words “Paris Agreement,” the deal to fight global warming which U.S. President Trump has threatened to abandon.

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12:15 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has detailed his top priorities at the G-7, which include climate change and trade.

At a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, Macron insisted on the need for “reciprocity” on trade and said Europeans sometimes had a “too naive” approach on trade deals.

The two leaders also found common ground on terrorism, following the attack on a pop concert in Manchester that killed 22 people. Macron offered his condolences for the Manchester attack, calling for increased European cooperation against terror “because they attack our young.”

That comment also referred to the Nice truck attack last summer that killed children and young families at a fireworks display, as well as the attack on a concert at the Bataclan theater in Paris.

Macron spoke fluent English, which is very unusual for a French president.

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11:55 p.m.

Despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s views, Italy’s leader is pushing for the G-7 summit to issue a strong statement on both fighting climate change and on handling the vast flow of migrants and refugees in need of help around the world.

Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni, the host of this year’s G-7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, spoke Friday as the two-day summit of the world’s wealthy democracies began.

Gentiloni says “We will make an important declaration today here in Taormina on climate change, on great migrant flows, on free trade in the world on which so many jobs depend and the future prospects for our economy.”

The Italian leader says the talks won’t be easy but “the spirit of Taormina will help push us in the right direction.”

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11:20 a.m.

The chairman of the European Union’s council says he agrees with President Donald Trump that the international community should be “tough, even brutal” on terrorism and Islamic State.

European Council President Donald Tusk said terrorism was one of the main topics between EU officials and Trump during his visit to Brussels, especially in the wake of the Manchester pop concert bombing.

Tusk said that “I totally agreed with him when he said the international community, the G7, the United States, Europe — should be tough, even brutal, with terrorism and ISIS” an acronym for the extremist group fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Tusk spoke at the start of a meeting of the Group of Seven democracies in Taormina, Sicily.

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7 a.m.

The hot-button issues of climate change, trade and migration threaten to throw a summit of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies off its consensus game, with U.S. President Donald Trump cast as the spoiler-in-chief.

While Trump has met all of the leaders one on one, this will be the first time all seven are around the same table, including newcomers Emmanuel Macron of France, Theresa May of Britain and the Italian host, Paolo Gentiloni.

Climate policy promises to be the real buzzkill at the G-7 party. Endorsing measures to combat terror is expected to find easy agreement, especially after the attack in Manchester on a pop music concert that left 22 people dead.

Trump also going against the grain on trade, taking a more protectionist stand.

His pending review of U.S. climate policies has left environmentalists bracing for the possibility of bland G-7 promises that says little after years of increasingly stronger commitments to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This post originally appeared on Townhall

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