US president Donald Trump has sharply criticised his Canadian and French counterparts over their critiques of his trade policies, and plans an early exit from the annual G7 meeting of industrialised nations in Quebec.
Trump will arrive at the annual gathering, held this year at a resort in the Canadian province, but will leave on Saturday morning before the event is over, heading out to Singapore for his highly-anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The White House announced the US leader’s travel plans after French president Emmanuel Macron and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau signalled they will use the event to take a stance against new US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
At a joint press conference, Macron stressed: “A trade war doesn’t spare anyone. It will start first of all to hurt US workers.”
Trudeau said: “We are going to defend our industries and our workers.”
The Canadian leader, for his part, said Trump’s action would hurt American workers as well as Canadians.
“If I can get the president to actually realise that what he’s doing is counter-productive for his own goals as well, perhaps we can move forward in a smarter way,” Trudeau said.
As tempers frayed, Trump had a ready retort, writing on Twitter: “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 (dollars), and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”
Later, Trump also tweeted: “Prime Minister Trudeau is being so indignant, bringing up the relationship that the U.S. and Canada had over the many years and all sorts of other things…but he doesn’t bring up the fact that they charge us up to 300% on dairy — hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture!”
A few hours later, he added: “Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!”
French president Emmanuel Macron signalled that he is seeking to take the lead of the European brigade against Trump at the G7.
Macron called a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, German chancellor Angela Merkel, new Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and top EU officials just before the opening of the meeting.
He told reporters the United States’ attitude must lead other nations to “reforge the European front”.
Macron stressed: “No leader is eternal. We inherit commitments which are beyond us. We take them on. That is the life of nations.”
With a cool reception all but assured, Trump has complained to aides about even having to attend the meeting, especially since his summit with Kim is just days away.
This marks Trump’s second G7 summit, an informal gathering that meets every year under a rotating chairmanship. The member countries are Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, the US and the UK. The European Union also attends.
Trump is set to hold a series of group and one-on-one meetings, including with Trudeau and Macron.
Under Donald Trump, the United States has abandoned its traditional role in the G7. His predecessors pressed for freer global trade and championed a trading system that required countries to follow World Trade Organisation rules. Trump’s policies have been more protectionist and confrontational, driven by a perception that the US has been the victim of poorly-conceived trade deals.
Relations have hit such a low that a key question now is whether the seven countries can agree on a joint statement of priorities at the conclusion of the meeting.