0637 GMT August 16, 2018
US President Donald Trump threw the G7’s efforts to show a united front into disarray after taking aim at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, adding he might double down on import tariffs by hitting the sensitive auto industry.
Having left the Group of Seven summit in Canada early, Trump’s announcement that he was backing out of the joint communique torpedoed what appeared to be a fragile consensus on the trade dispute between Washington and its top allies.
In a flurry of tweets from Air Force One en route to Singapore for a historic nuclear summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Trump accused the summit host, Trudeau of being “very dishonest.”
He was reacting to Trudeau’s declaration that Canadians would “not be pushed around” and would hit back at punishing US tariffs on metal imports with “equivalent tariffs.”
“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our US Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the US Market!” Trump tweeted.
“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 ... he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak.”
Reacting to Trump’s tweets, spokesman for Trudeau, Cameron Ahmad, 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.”
Germany continued to support the “jointly agreed communique” despite Trump’s decision to back away, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement on Sunday.
US ‘fits of anger’
France warned on Sunday that “fits of anger” could not dictate international cooperation.
“International cooperation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement.
“We spend two days working out a (joint) statement and commitments. We are sticking to them and whoever reneges on them is showing incoherence and inconsistency. Let’s be serious and worthy of our people. We make commitments and keep them,” the president’s office said, adding, “France and Europe maintain their support for this (G7) statement.”
Trump’s salvo capped a dizzying two days of controversies that began with his suggestion Russia be readmitted to the G7, then what a French official described as a “rant” full of “recriminations” against US trading partners, followed by Trump’s denial of any contention with leaders at the summit and his description of their relationship as a “10”.
By ordering his representatives to back out of the communique, Trump appeared to be asserting his oft-stated aim of upsetting the status quo whether by pulling out of the global climate accord or the international nuclear deal with Iran or threats to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The communique, which appeared to have papered over the cracks that have surfaced in the G7, said the leaders of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.
“We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies,” the statement said.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.