G-7 summit Trump barrels into talks, ready to fight longtime allies
LA MALBAIE, Quebec
Bruising for a fight, President Donald Trump barreled into the Group of Seven summit Friday, confronting longtime U.S. allies over a burgeoning trade dispute and insisting Russia should be brought back into the fold.
Trump joined the leaders of major industrialized nations in an idyllic Canadian resort town after days of escalating conflict over new U.S. tariffs he slapped on imports of steel and aluminum. Facing pointed criticism from increasingly disillusioned allies, he punched back, uncowed by the growing global outcry.
“Look, all of these countries have been taking advantage of the United States on trade,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House, repeating his longstanding complaints about trade deficits and tariffs. He declared: “We have to straighten it out.”
However, Trump did seek to lower the temperature after his arrival. He bantered easily with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, joking that the neighboring leader had “agreed to cut all tariffs and all trade barriers.” And he emphasized a “good relationship” with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying they sometimes have a “little test” on trade, but predicting a positive outcome.
Still, the fundamental differences remained clear. Trump again railed against trade deficits with other countries and repeated that he may pursue separate negotiations with Canada and Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Macron said there had been “open and direct” discussions, adding that he thought there was a way to get a “win-win” outcome on trade, though details remained unclear.
Before arriving at the meeting of the group, which some suggest Trump is pushing from the Group of Seven into “G-6 plus one,” he further stirred the pot by asking why Russia was excluded.
Russia was ousted from the elite group in 2014 as punishment for President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Russia issue “hasn’t been raised around the G-7 table,” though she said there have been “some direct conversations in bilateral meetings.” She added “there are no grounds whatsoever for bringing Russia with its current behavior back into the G-7.”
Despite the tension, the president was greeted cordially by Trudeau as he arrived at the annual gathering, held this year at a picturesque Quebec resort. Other members of the Group of Seven are France, Italy, Japan, Germany and Britain. The European Union also attends.
Trump showed up late and will leave early today, heading to Singapore for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He spent Friday participating in the rituals of the G-7.
Over the course of his presidency, Trump has inflamed allies with his isolationist policies, including withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord and the international Iran nuclear agreement. Under Trump, the United States has abandoned its traditional role in the G-7 as an advocate for freer global trade, instead pushing more protectionist policies.
“The rules-based international order is being challenged, not by the usual suspects but by its main architect and guarantor: the United States,” said European Council President Donald Tusk.
Relations have hit such a low point that a key question now is whether the seven countries can agree on a joint statement of priorities at the conclusion of the meeting.