President Donald Trump suggested to the G7 leaders that the world should eliminate all tariffs, trade barriers, and subsides in order to promote free trade.
The idea comes weeks after Trump imposed huge tariffs of steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico.
The suggestion took the G7 leaders aback, reports said.
While Trump seemed to reverse course, the president also kept up his complaints about trade deficits.
President Donald Trump suggested a radical change to the international trading system in an apparent reversal of his recent tariff policy.
During a press conference at the G7 summit in Quebec, Canada, Trump said that he suggested that all tariffs, trade barriers, and industrial subsidies should be dropped in order to facilitate free trade.
"No tariffs, no barriers, that's the way it should be," Trump said. "And no subsides, I even said not tariffs."
The statement comes just a few weeks after Trump decided to impose large tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico and a few months after Trump hit the rest of the world with the same tariffs.
According to multiple reports, Trump brought up the idea of totally free trade during a meeting with the other G7 leaders which include the heads of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and representative for the EU.
"Ultimately that's what you want, you want tariff free, no barriers, and you want no subsides because you have some countries subsidizing industries and that's not fair," Trump said. "So you go tariff free, you go barrier free, you go subsidy free, that's the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance."
According to reports, the other leaders were taken aback by the suggestions and not sure how serious Trump was about it. The president alluded to the surprise during the press conference.
"People were ... I guess they gotta go back to drawing board and check it out," Trump said.
Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser and a staunch advocate of free trade, said the suggestion of no tariffs led to productive discussions with the other world leaders.
"I don't know if they were surprised with President Trump's free trade proclamation, but they certainly listened to it and we had lengthy discussions about that," Kudlow said at the press conference. "As the president said, reduce these barriers, in fact go to zero, zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, zero subsidies, and along the way we're going to have to clean up the international trading system."
But Trump did not totally change course, adding that the current tariffs were necessary as a reciprocal action in response to various barriers erected by other nations.
"We can't have an example where we're paying, the United States is paying, 270% — just can't have it — and when they send things into us you don't have that," Trump said at the press conference.
During the meeting with leaders Trump also aired grievances about trade, using charts to discuss the US's trade deficit with various G7 members. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel strongly pushed back on these attacks, per reports.