TrumpWatch, Day 506: Trump Blows Up the G6+1 Summit

Leaders of the G7 countries, including Germany's Angela Merkel, face Donald Trump at their summit, Charlevoix, Canada, June 9, 2018

European and Canadian leaders take tough stance against Trump’s threats


Developments on Day 506 of the Trump Administration:

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Trump v. Everyone (Except Kim)

Donald Trump escalates both his personal battles and threats of trade war with US allies after a day of confrontation at the G7 summit in Canada.

Within hours, Trump showed up late at a morning session, was photographed stone-faced when challenged by the other G7 leaders, suddenly — after imposing the steel and aluminum tariffs that caused discord at the meeting — called for the removal of all duties, and repeated his support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After Trump left for his June 12 meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he insulted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then withdrew US assent to the summit’s final communiqué.

Trump had entered the summit with Twitter blasts against the European Union, especially French President Emmanuel Macron, and Trudeau, and Friday saw fencing for position with Macron declaring European unity and Trudeau trying to ease the US President off his 25% steel and 10% aluminum duties.

But Saturday soon moved towards implosion. Trump began with another snub to his hosts, arriving late for a session on women’s empowerment and bringing stern looks from participants such as the head of the International Monetary Fund,

LAGARDE TRUMP G7

Trying to seize the advantage and blunt criticism of the recently-imposed tariffs, Trump and the US delegation put out the line that the President was pushing for the removal of all duties. But the approach was overshadowed and undermined by Trump’s threats of a trade war in remarks to the press:

Ridiculous and unacceptable [tariffs are] going to stop or we’ll stop trading with them. And that’s a very profitable answer, if we have to do it. We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing — and that ends.

Trump also complicated his message with other statements, such as his embrace of Russia’s line on the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine — a step that led to Moscow’s exclusion from the then-G8 in 2014.

Trump said before the summit that Russia should be readmitted, despite concern over Moscow’s aggressive foreign policy, interference in foreign elections, cybero-operations, and possible complicity in the attempted nerve agent assassination of a former spy in southern England in March. Yesterday he blamed Barack Obama rather than Putin for Crimea’s annexation.

The statement continued Trump’s defense of Putin over the issue, including during the 2016 Presidential campaign:

Trump’s unpredictable and antagonizing behavior and statements led to an extraordinary image, with the US President’s body language resisting the argument of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the other G7 leaders and Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton looked on.

Significantly, the photograph was disseminated by the office of Merkel, setting aside her normal caution in challenging another leader.

MERKEL CONFRONTS TRUMP G7

Despite — or possibly because of — the confrontation, Trump left the summit in good spirits. He praised Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the lone leader to offer initial support for the US President’s line on re-admitting Russia to the G8 (although Conte soon retracted this). Then Trump tweeted:

Trump’s Tantrum Over Trudeau

But Trump’s buoyancy was soon punctured by Trudeau. The Canadian leader said that the G7 had reached broad agreements in a joint communiqué after a “very successful” meeting and that he was “inspired by the discussion”. However, he also pledged to retaliate against the steel and aluminum tariffs in defense of Canadian workers.

Aboard Air Force One, Trump blew up. He lashed out at Trudeau, repeated his simplified presentation of “massiave Canadian tariffs and German automobile exports, and withdrew the US signature on the communiqué:

The denunciation of Trudeau and G7 stood in stark contrast to Trump’s praise of North Korea’s Kim as he departed for the Singapore meeting:

Trump’s hardline National Security Advisor Bolton jumped in, appropriating the photograph disseminated by the Germans hours earlier:

The Canada-Europe Line

There was no sign of retreat among the Canadian and European leaders.

Trudeau said, “I have made it very clear to the President that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do. As Canadians, we are polite, we’re reasonable, but also we will not be pushed around.”

Macron, who promised in his pre-summit tweets to resist hegemony and then spent Friday trying to hold the advantage over Trump, said the trade debates were “sometimes quite heated”. Asked who won the tug-of-war with Trump, he replied, “There is no winner, there are only losers when you take that strategy.”

Even Prime Minister Theresa May, who has tried to cultivate the US-UK “special relationship” with Trump, hit back. She said that she had registered “our deep disappointment at the unjustified [tariff] decision” and that the loss of trade would “ultimately make everyone poorer”.

Trump: “My Touch, My Feel” for North Korea’s Kim

Meanwhile, Trump — highlighting his claim that he does not need to prepare for Tuesday’s summit with Kim Jong-un — said he will know immediately whether there is the prospect of a deal.

“Within the first minute, I’ll know. My touch, my feel — that’s what I do,” Trump said:

You know the way they say you know if you like somebody in the first five seconds?. Well, I think very quickly I’ll know whether something good is going to happen. I think I’ll also know whether it will happen fast.

US media reported from sources last week that the White House and National Security Council have not held any strategy meetings for the summit, and Trump said on Thursday that the preparation is unnecessary.

Trump again stepped back from earlier proclamations that a deal would be reached at the summit, saying he hopes to “start a dialogue”:

I’d like to accomplish more than that….[But] at least we’ll have met each other, we’ll have seen each other; hopefully, we’ll have liked each other. We’ll start that process….But I think it will take a little bit of time.

Trump later tweeted:

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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