ABOVE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting at the G-7 summit, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Charlevoix, Canada. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
By Catherine Lucey, Rob Gillies and Ken Thomas
LA MALBAIE, QUEBEC — Lashing out at the longtime U.S. ally and northern neighbor, President Donald Trump tweeted that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “dishonest & weak” and that the U.S. was pulling back its endorsement of the G-7 summit’s communique in part because of what he called Trudeau’s “false statements” at a news conference.
In an extraordinary set of tweets aboard Air Force One, on its way to Singapore for Tuesday’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump threw the G-7 summit into disarray Saturday and threatened to escalate his trade war just as Canada released the G-7’s official communique. Its statement took a generally positive view of the leaders’ positions on trade matters while acknowledging tensions with the U.S.
A few hours earlier, Trudeau had told reporters that all seven leaders had come together to sign the joint declaration.
Trump 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!”
He followed up by tweeting: “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 a statement, a spokesman for Trudeau did not address Trump’s insults. “We are focused on everything we accomplished here at the #G7 summit,” spokesman Cameron Ahmad said. “The Prime Minister said nothing he hasn’t said before — both in public, and in private conversations with the President.”
During an evening stroll with his wife and another couple, Trudeau was asked a couple of times by a reporter for his reaction to Trump’s tweets. And he was also asked for his thoughts on what Trump’s move could mean for the future of the G7 .
Trudeau didn’t answer the questions, responding to journalists at the photo op: “Good to see you guys … It’s a beautiful evening, a great weekend.”
Trump’s personal attack on Trudeau is unprecedented in the countries’ longstanding relationship.
As he exited the world summit, Trump had delivered a stark warning to America’s trading partners not to counter his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. But the summit host, Trudeau, whose nation was among those singled out by Trump, pushed back and said he would not hesitate to retaliate against his neighbor to the south.
“If they retaliate, they’re making a mistake,” Trump declared before departing the annual Group of Seven summit, which includes Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Japan.
Trudeau later said he reiterated to Trump that tariffs will harm industries and workers on both sides of the U.S.- Canada border. He said unleashing retaliatory measures “is not something I relish doing” but that he wouldn’t hesitate to do so because “I will always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests.”
“As Canadians, we are polite, we’re reasonable, but also we will not be pushed around,” Trudeau said.
Despite the sharp differences, Trudeau said all seven leaders had come together to sign a joint declaration despite having “some strong, firm conversations on trade, and specifically on American tariffs.”
Trump himself insisted relationships with allies were a “ten” just before he left the summit. But Trump’s abbreviated stay at this Quebec resort saw him continuing the same type of tough talk on trade as when he departed the White House, when he accused Trudeau of being “indignant.”
The summit came during an ongoing trade dispute with China and served as a precursor to the unprecedented meeting with Kim, in which Trump has sought to extend a hand to the Asian autocrat who has long bedeviled the international order.
“His message from Quebec to Singapore is that he is going to meld the industrial democracies to his will — and bring back Russia,” said Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign and White House adviser. Bannon said China is “now on notice that Trump will not back down from even allies’ complaints in his goal of ‘America First.’”
Speaking on Saturday during a rare solo news conference, Trump said he pressed for the G-7 countries to eliminate all tariffs, trade barriers and subsidies in their trading practices. He reiterated his long standing view that the U.S. has been taken advantage of in global trade, adding, “We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing, and that ends.”
He said U.S. farmers had been harmed by tariffs and other barriers and warned that U.S. trading partners would need to provide him with more favorable terms. “It’s going to stop or we’ll stop trading with them,” he said.
Trump cited progress on reaching an agreement on the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, saying the final outcome would lead either to an improved trade deal or separate pacts with the two U.S. neighbors. Trump said he was discussing two types of sunset provisions in which any of the countries could leave the deal. A Canadian official said the leaders discussed accelerating the pace of the talks.
But Trudeau objected strenuously to a sunset clause of any length. “If you put an expiry date on any trade deal, that’s not a trade deal. That’s our unequivocal position,” he said.
Prior to his arrival on Friday, the president injected additional controversy by suggesting that the G-7 offer a seat at the table to Russia, which was ousted from the group in 2014. Trump said Saturday that re-admitting Russia to the elite club would be “an asset,” telling reporters, “We’re looking for peace in the world.” Trump said he had not spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a while.
Discussing Russia’s absence, Trump made the vague comment that “something happened a while ago where Russia is no longer in. I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in.” In fact, Russia was expelled from what was then the G-8 after it invaded and annexed Crimea and for its support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.
Trump placed the blame on his predecessor, President Barack Obama. “He was the one who let Crimea get away — that was during his administration,” he said, adding: “Obama can say all he wants, but he allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude.”
It was not clear what Trump thought Obama should have done to prevent Putin from sending in Russian troops to seize the Black Sea peninsula from neighboring Ukraine.
Trudeau said he told Trump that readmitting Russia “is not something that we are even remotely looking at at this time.”
Trump departed the annual G-7 gathering after arriving late to a breakfast on gender equity and skipping later sessions on climate change, clean energy and ocean protection.
Trump’s recent moves, building on 18 months of nationalist policy-making, left him out of step with the globally minded organization and prompted speculation that the group could fracture into something more like the “G-6 plus one.”
A key question was whether the seven countries could agree on a joint statement of priorities at the conclusion of the meeting. Macron said Thursday on Twitter, “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be.” Trump said Friday he thinks the group will produce a joint statement.
In public, Trump bantered easily with his fellow leaders, but the meeting came at a tense moment in the relationships, with allies steaming over Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Trump had “open and direct” discussions, adding that he thought there was a way to get a “win-win” outcome on trade. Details remained unclear.