…and lashes out at allies at the G-7
President Trump angrily broke with the U.S.’s closest allies after a contentious G-7 summit in Quebec City last week, threatening to escalate a trade war that could fracture the Western alliance. After leaving the meeting early for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump defiantly refused to endorse a joint policy statement agreed to by leaders from other attending powers—Canada, Japan, Italy, France, Germany, and the U.K. In a series of acerbic tweets, the U.S. president said he rejected the agreement because G-7 host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had made “false statements” at a post-summit press conference. At that presser, Trudeau vowed Canada would counter Trump’s recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports with duties on U.S. goods, and said he’d told the U.S. president that Canada “will not be pushed around.” Enraged, Trump called Trudeau “very dishonest and weak.” White House officials piled on, with trade adviser Peter Navarro saying there’s “a special place in hell” for foreign leaders who engage in “bad-faith diplomacy” with the president.
The fractious tone was set even before the G-7 meeting began, with Trump telling reporters in Washington that Russia should be let back into the group. Moscow was booted four years earlier for invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea; most G-7 nations oppose Russia’s readmission. During the summit, Trump berated other leaders for U.S. trade deficits and the cost of NATO, saying, “We’re like the piggy bank that everyone’s robbing.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the meeting’s outcome “sobering and somewhat depressing.”
What the editorials said
“America First” is fast becoming “America Alone,” said The New York Times. Trump knew he’d be on the defensive at the summit—for abandoning the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal, and imposing tariffs on Canadian and European imports—so he made a point of arriving late, leaving early, and insulting Trudeau “in a way defying basic social norms.” When Russian President Vladimir Putin meddled in the 2016 election, he could never have dreamed that Trump “would so outrageously, destructively, and thoroughly alienate” our closest allies.
Trump has proved “that he can disrupt the global status quo, for better and worse,” said The Wall Street Journal. His “muscular defense of U.S. interests” is working against adversaries such as Iran and has pushed our NATO partners to spend more on defense. But this trade war could cost up to 250,000 U.S. jobs and wreck the system of international commerce that has allowed the West to thrive. Sooner or later, Trump will have “to contribute to a better world order instead of merely blowing up the old one.”
What the columnists said
With this president, it’s hard to pinpoint “where exactly his loyalties lie,” said Max Boot in The Washington Post. His call for Russia to be let back in the G-7 “was a bizarre suggestion, given that Russia is not only an international outlaw but also an economic pygmy whose GDP does not even rank in the top 10.” And Moscow has done nothing since 2014 to deserve re-admittance. In fact, its aggressions—meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, committing war crimes in Syria—“demand more punishment.”
Trudeau and other G-7 leaders are angry only because Trump is shaking up “a trade system that holds the U.S. at a disadvantage,” said Christian Whiton in FoxNews.com. France and other EU countries, for example, levy a 10 percent tariff on imported U.S. cars, but we charge only 2.5 percent on European autos. Canada has tariffs of about 270 percent on U.S. dairy. Yes, our allies are guilty of protectionism—but so are we, said Jordan Weissmann in Slate.com. Our sugar industry, for example, is “protected by an elaborate system of price supports and tariffs” that puts competitors at a disadvantage. Not incidentally, the U.S. had an $8.4 billion goods and services trade surplus with Canada last year. We’re hardly getting robbed.
So what exactly is Trump’s foreign policy doctrine? asked Jeffrey Goldberg in TheAtlantic.com. A senior White House official told me it’s “We’re America, bitches.” To Trump’s supporters, such an approach “could be understood as a middle finger” to a world “that no longer respects American power and privilege.” Yet by “pursuing policies that undermine the Western alliance” and empower rivals such as Russia and China, the Trump Doctrine will only make the U.S. weaker, “perhaps permanently.”