President Trump’s 24 hours in Quebec while attending the annual G-7 Summit was every bit as confrontational as we imagined they would be. The president has enraged his fellow world leaders, insulted Justin Trudeau, who’s hosting the summit in Quebec and whom Trump repeated referenced as just “Justin”, and skipped a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has attacked him and vowed to challenge his “America First” trade agenda while also confronting him about his climate stance – something that might be difficult to do, since Trump left this morning after he said he would skip discussions about climate change Saturday night.
Trump also showed up late to a gender-focused breakfast meeting, billed by the event’s Canadian organizers as a chance for leaders to “draft concrete actions for the G-7 to advance gender equality,” according to CBC. Isabelle Hudon, Canada’s ambassador to France, was making opening remarks when Trump and a flood of press pool members arrived and interrupted her.
As Trump quietly took his place between Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, and Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross, the Canadian head of the NATO college in Rome, Trudeau restated his welcome and Hudon repeated her remarks.
Then there were his controversial remarks. Early on, Trump suggested that the G-7 should consider readmitting Russia, which was kicked out in 2014 for its activities in Crimea. Trump instead blamed those on Obama. Also on Friday, Trump floated the idea of ending all tariffs and trade barriers between the US and its allies – a pitch that wasn’t exactly expected, according to Politico. Trump offered the proposal at the end of a “contentious” meeting on trade disputes. Most G-7 members remain furious with Trump over his decision to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, and his threats to impose more trade restrictions. Merkel responded positively to Trump’s suggestion, saying she would consider it.
“We should at least consider no tariffs, no barriers — scrapping all of it,” Trump said, according to officials who were listening and taking notes.
Before leaving for his meeting with Kim Jong Un, Trump provided an update during a live press conference with Larry Kudlow and John Bolton. First he thanked Trudeau and praised Canada as a “beautiful country” before launching into a summary of issues starting with trade. Though he walked away without signing the US on to the traditional post-summit agreement (providing more fodder for critics who sneered about the G-6 + 1), Trump insisted that the G-7 was “tremendously successful” and despite trade tensions “relationships are outstanding.” He adds that the tariff situation is “going to change, 100 percent” as the US is “like the piggy bank that everyone robs”.
During his talk, Trump alternated between stream-of-conscious rambling about trade, Russia and North Korea and taking questions from reporters.
“We had productive discussion on having fair and reciprocal” trade and market access.
“We’re linked in the great effort to create a more just and prosperous world. And from the standpoint of trade and creating more prosperous countries, I think they are starting to be committed to more fair trade. We as a nation lost $870 billion on trade…I blame our leaders and I congratulate leaders of other countries for taking advantage of our leaders.”
“If they retaliate they’re making a tremendous mistake because you see we have a tremendous trade imbalance…the numbers are so much against them, we win that war 1000 times out of a 1000.”
“We’re negotiating very hard, tariffs and barriers…the European Union is brutal to the United States….the gig is up…there’s nothing they can say.”
“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing.”
“I would say the level of relationship is a ten – Angela, Emmanuel and Justin – we have a very good relationship. I won’t blame these people, unless they don’t smarten up and make the trades fair.”
On eliminating trade barriers:
“That’s the way it should be. No tariffs, no barriers – no subsidies.”
“You go tariff free you go barrier-free you go subsidy-free – that’s the way we learned it at the Wharton School of Finance. We can’t have an example where the US is paying fees of 270%.”
Then “Worst, Fake News” CNN asked President Trump how disastrous his trade policies are and how his actions are hurting relationships… to which he replied very informatively, ending “so you can tell that to your fake friends at CNN…”
President Trump lays it all out on trade to CNN reporter 🔥 pic.twitter.com/PbboaQBhAI
— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) June 9, 2018
On North Korea:
“I feel that Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people…he’s got an opportunity that, if you look back into history, few people have ever had.”
“This is a great opportunity for peace and lasting peace and prosperity.”
“It’s going to be something that’s always spur of the moment…this is an unknown personality many people don’t know.”
“You know how they say you know whether you’ll like somebody in the first five seconds? I think I’ll know pretty quickly whether we’re going to make a deal.”
“Some people like the idea of bringing Russia back in.”
Asked if Crimea should be considered Russia now:
“you’d have to ask President Obama because he’s the one who let Crimea get away. He allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude.”
Trump is now making the 20-hour flight to Singapore, where he will attend a historic summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. We’ll now keep our eye out for the finalized communique from the group. The US is typically a leader in the crafting of the statement. But this time, it’s unclear if the US had any input at all into the statement, as only the leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well as the presidents of the European Commission and European Council remain at the meeting. But regardless of who writes it, the statement will probably be of little consequence, as UBS points out:
Several heads of state will be heading off on a taxpayer-financed “mini-break” in Canada today. In all of its incarnations (over the past four years, we’ve gone from G-8 to G-6+1) the group hasn’t really accomplished much since an initial burst of enthusiasm with the Plaza Accords and Louvre Accords in the 1980s.
And this meeting likely won’t be any different.