What went wrong between Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau at G7?

Summit left in disarray as US president withdraws support for joint communique and attacks ‘weak’ Canadian PM

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau at last week's G7 summit in Canada
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron has been the first G7 leader to hit back at Donald Trump, after the US president dramatically withdrew his support for a joint communiqué agreed at the group’s recent summit in Canada and attacked its host.

What happened?

In a series of early morning tweets, Trump described Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak” and accused him of making “false statements”. He also said he would not be endorsing the communique which agreed the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade”, stressed the importance of fighting protectionism and demanded Moscow cease its destabilising behaviour.

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It follows an extraordinary press conference on Saturday in which Trump threatened to cut off trade with countries that treated the US unfairly, adding “We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing”.

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Despite this it was hoped the communique, which had been initially signed off by the US, would represent a general show of unity among the world’s biggest economies.

Does the disagrement matter?

The US president's Twitter outburst, sent as he flew to an historic meeting with North Korea's ruler Kim Jong Un in Singapore, unravelled days of work by the world's top nations in attempting to resolve a growing global trade dispute.

Prior to the meeting, a White House official has told the Washington Post that Trump was contemplating not signing the statement but “in the end what Trump did seemed significantly pettier” says Vox, claiming he decided to take his support back because Trudeau pledged to follow through on earlier promises to retaliate against US tariffs at a press conference after he left.

“Even for a presidency as capricious as Trump’s, his action marked a new blurring of lines between his personal feelings towards other leaders, and US government policy” says The Observer.

The paper adds “it was also the latest example of Trump’s use of much harsher language towards fellow democratically-elected leaders of allied countries than to strongmen leaders of enemy and adversary nations”.

How did other leaders react?

A picture taken by Jesco Denzel, a German government photographer, and released by Steffen Seibert, spokesman for the chancellor, Angela Merkel apparently showed world leaders confronting Trump at the G7 summit.

To many observers the photograph offered “a rare glimpse of diplomatic activity not wreathed in smiles and handshakes,” The Guardian says.

As G7 leaders were scrambling to respond to the latest US U-turn, Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement: “International co-operation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks”.

The response “suggests an end to what observers had noted was a budding “bromance” between the French president and Mr Trump” says Sky News.

The French president has used up a significant amount of political capital wooing the billionaire businessman with almost nothing to show for it. Despite a concerted lobbying effort, Trump has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and imposed huge tariffs on European imports.

Ultimately though, Trump’s harshly worded tweets, personally insulting one of the US’s closest allies and overturning an apparent commitment that had been made just hours earlier, “made his exit from the summit even more acrimonious than most analysts expected” says Vox.

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