The Group of Seven Summit is shaping up to be a contentious event with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders taking a hard-line against U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade and tariff actions.
The trade battle has strained Mr. Trump’s relations with Mr. Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron. Mr. Trump reportedly had even considered sending Vice-President Mike Pence in his place.
On Thursday, however, Mr. Trump said he was looking forward to “good discussions” at the summit, especially on his historic denuclearization talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore next week.
Later in the evening, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to take a personal pot shot at Mr. Trudeau, who will hold a bilateral meeting with the U.S. President on Friday aside from the talks amongst the leaders.
The U.S. President showed his displeasure with Mr. Trudeau for criticizing U.S. tariffs and lambasted Canada’s supply-management system.
The Prime Minister’s Office dismissed the President’s angry tweet against the Prime Minister, saying Mr. Trump has strong opinions as does Mr. Trudeau.
“We are not blind to the fact that there are going to be some serious disagreements on a lot of things and this is an opportunity for the leaders to get together to talk about them,” Mr. Trudeau’s spokesperson Cameron Ahmad said. “At the same time Canadians expect their Prime Minister to stand up for their values and their interests and that is what the Prime Minister is going to do.”
Although the G7 leaders endorse Mr. Trump’s North Korean gamble, they want the focus of the summit − hosted by Mr. Trudeau in the picturesque village of La Malbaie, Que. − to be on the United States’ recently deployed tariffs on steel and aluminum. The dispute is threatening to escalate into a full-blown trade war.
“A trade war doesn’t spare anyone. It will start first of all to hurt U.S. workers, and the cost of raw materials will rise, and industries will become less competitive,” Mr. Macron said at a joint news conference in Ottawa alongside Mr. Trudeau.
The Prime Minister said “we are going to defend our industries and our workers” and “show the U.S. President that his unacceptable actions are hurting his own citizens. American jobs are on the line because of his actions.”
In even blunter language, Mr. Macron said the U.S. tariffs on European, Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum are “unilateral and illegal,” and predicted that they will hurt global growth.
The gang-up by the G7 leaders is unlikely to push the President to reverse course, however. In a tweet on Thursday, Mr. Trump said: “Getting ready to go to the G-7 in Canada to fight for our country on Trade (we have the worst trade deals ever made).”
Mr. Trump also tweeted: “Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”
Mr. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters on Wednesday the President won’t back down on his trade-and-tariffs dispute with the country’s allies.
Mr. Kudlow characterized the angry reactions from Canada and Europe to the tariffs – including reciprocal tariffs on U.S. goods that come into effect on July 1 – as a “family quarrel.”
But Mr. Macron said: “I would like to say Mr. Trump that the measures taken are counterproductive. We can’t engage in a trade war against friends.”
Mr. Trudeau said the leaders want Mr. Trump to abandon the tariffs and, in exchange, they will seek reform of the World Trade Organization, which Mr. Trump has said is tilted against the U.S. economy.
The one issue on which all the leaders agree is Mr. Trump’s effort to denuclearize North Korea. Mr. Trump meets Mr. Kim in Singapore on June 12 − the first meeting of its kind between a leader of North Korea and a sitting U.S. president.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to brief the G7 leaders on the issue on Saturday.
At a news conference in Washington on Thursday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Mr. Trump said he was prepared to invite North Korea’s dictator to the White House if the nuclear talks are successful, but warned that he won’t be a pushover.
“They have to denuke. If they don’t denuclearize, that will not be acceptable. We cannot take sanctions off. The sanctions are extraordinarily powerful,” Mr. Trump said. “All I can say is I am totally prepared to walk away.”
Mr. Trump also said he would normalize relations with North Korea and sign an agreement to bring an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War if the Kim regime follows through with an agreement that meets U.S. expectations.
Mr. Abe pledged Japanese economic aid and the restoration of diplomatic relations if North Korea agrees to total denuclearization.
Mr. Trump also promised Mr. Abe that he would use the Singapore Summit to raise the issue of 12 Japanese citizens abducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s and held hostage in North Korea.
When he arrives in Canada on Friday for the G7 Summit, Mr. Trump can also expect to be the odd man out on the issues of climate change and Iran, given his decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal. Europe and Canada will press the President to allow them to continue to co-operate with Iran, so that it maintains its promise not to build nuclear weapons.
”Don’t prevent other people from keeping [the nuclear agreement] and don’t push Iran out of it,” Mr. Macron said.
It remains uncertain whether the G7 will even release a final communiqué, given the deep disputes that Mr. Trump has with the other leaders on trade, Iran and the environment.
Mr. Macron said the leaders don’t want to put out a communiqué if “we drain it of all meaning.”