Tense G7 summit ends but disputes have only widened

Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 11th June, 2018

WASHINGTON, U.S. - The Group of Seven summit in Canada, which was expected to be a platform for the leaders of some of the most powerful industrialized nations of the world to enhance trade ties and discuss concerns - was set to be tense right from the word go.

As the summit concluded on Saturday, it left the group more divided than before.

At the start of the summit on Friday, the U.S. President Donald Trump received a cold welcome, owing to his administration’s recent imposition of steep metal tariffs, citing national security reasons.

The move, as part of which U.S. will levy tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum, has irked some of America’s closest allies.

The issue dominated talks between the leaders from the first day of the summit itself - with reports revealing that G7 leaders including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the French President Emmanuel Macron and others confronted Trump over the tariff threats.

After the tense formal discussion, at a private gathering with European leaders, Trump reportedly suggested ending all tariffs between the U.S. and other G7 nations.

He reportedly told EU leaders, “We should at least consider no tariffs, no barriers—scrapping all of it.”

Then, on Saturday, addressing a press conference in La Malbaie, Trump repeated the offer and said, “No tariffs, no barriers, that’s the way it should be, and no subsidies. I did suggest it and people were - I guess they’re going to go back to the drawing board and check it out."

Yet, despite some disagreements and tense moments, as discussions carried forward, the group put on a show of unity.

As he departed the summit, Trump even tweeted, “Just left the @G7 Summit in beautiful Canada. Great meetings and relationships with the six Country Leaders especially since they know I cannot allow them to apply large Tariffs and strong barriers to......U.S.A. Trade. They fully understand where I am coming from. After many decades, fair and reciprocal Trade will happen!”

He added in a subsequent tweet, “The United States will not allow other countries to impose massive Tariffs and Trade Barriers on its farmers, workers and companies. While sending their product into our country tax free. We have put up with Trade Abuse for many decades — and that is long enough." 

However, hours after the show of unity, a war of words broke out between Trump and Trudeau. 

After Trump left the summit to head to Singapore, Trudeau made a statement at a press conference, which is believed to have provoked the U.S. President.

The Canadian leader vowed to press ahead with retaliatory measures on July 1 and said, "I have made it clear to [President Trump] that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do. Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around.”

Trudeau even told reporters that Trump’s decision to invoke national security to justify U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium imports was “kind of insulting” to Canadian veterans who had stood by their U.S. allies in conflicts dating back to World War I.

He added that he had told Trump “it would be with regret but it would be with absolute clarity and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures on July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied to us.”

Provoked by the statement by the Canadian leader, Trump and two of his advisers lashed out at Trudeau. 

Trump took to Twitter to thrash the Canadian Prime Minister, accusing him of engaging in "bad faith diplomacy.”

The U.S. President followed up his comments by the declaration that he was retracting his endorsement of the G7's joint communique.

Trump said that he had instructed U.S. officials "not to endorse the communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles.”

Trump further pointed out that his decision was based on Trudeau's "false statements.”

He tweeted, “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!”

Trump’s move drew a strong rebuke from France and Germany.

Then, on Sunday, Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro also attacked Trudeau.

Kudlow accused Canada of making “polarising” statements about the United States’ trade policy, and said that Trump had to pull out of a joint G7 statement because the Canadian Prime Minister had “stabbed us in the back.”

Claiming that the U.S. had “compromised” and joined the communique issued following the summit, Kudlow pointed out that the country took exception with Trudeau’s news conference.

He said, “We went through it. We agreed. We compromised on the communique. We joined the communique in good faith.”

Adding, “He (Trudeau) held a press conference and he said the U.S. is insulting. He said that Canada has to stand up for itself. He says that we are the problem with tariffs. The non-factual part of this is — they have enormous tariffs. Here’s the thing. He really kind of stabbed us in the back. He did a great disservice to the whole G7.”

Kudlow also called Trudeau's press conference a "sophomoric, political stunt for domestic consumption."

Meanwhile, Navarro reinforced the message in a separate interview and said, "There is a special place in Hell for any leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door."

Continuing his attacks, Trump tweeted that Trudeau was “dishonest and weak.”

Trump wrote, “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”

In response to the criticism, Trudeau’s office issued a statement clarifying that he had "said nothing he hasn't said before - both in public, and in private conversations with the president" and vowed to abide by the G7 final communique.

Trudeau’s office said, “We are focused on everything we accomplished here at the G7 summit. The Prime Minister said nothing he hasn’t said before—both in public, and in private conversations with the president.”

As Trump’s attacks grew, other G7 partners, who were baffled at Trump's outburst, pledged to support the communique, which says that the group of major industrial nations, including Canada, the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy, Japan and Germany, had agreed on the need for "free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade" and the importance of fighting protectionism.

Taking a dig at Trump, the French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement that "international co-operation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks.”

The statement from the French president added, ”Let's be serious and worthy of our people. We make commitments and keep to them.”

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, "In a matter of seconds, you can destroy trust with 280 Twitter characters."