President Trump stirred up a hornet’s nest during last week’s summit of major world leaders, suggesting they agree to embrace a full free-trade world with no tariffs or barriers — and then withdrawing from the summit’s joint communique after he felt insulted.
White House officials unloaded on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in unusually stark terms Sunday, saying he stabbed the president in the back with amateurish attacks over trade. They also said the young leader, who hosted the Group of Seven summit, made Mr. Trump look weak as he jetted from Canada to Singapore to face North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door,” Trump adviser Peter Navarro told “Fox News Sunday.”
Mr. Trump went into the G-7 summit somewhat of a pariah just weeks after he slapped tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from much of the world, including Canada and the European Union.
At the summit, Mr. Trump said, he told the leaders that the U.S. had been maltreated for decades by lopsided trade deals, which he was rebalancing. But he also delivered a tantalizing vision: a world where the big economies agreed to tear down all barriers, including tariffs and subsidies, and embrace full free trade.
“That’s the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance,” said Mr. Trump, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s famed business school.
The president reiterated Saturday that he also is considering scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement in favor of bilateral trade deals with Canada and Mexico individually.
In a post-summit press conference, Mr. Trump insisted that his relationships with other leaders were “very good” despite disagreement on the issues.
Soon afterward, Mr. Trudeau held his own post-summit press conference and said Mr. Trump’s move to justify the aluminum and steel tariffs by citing U.S. national security was “kind of insulting.”
“Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around,” Mr. Trudeau said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke similarly in an interview with ARD television after the G-7 summit, saying the European Union was joining Canada in preparing countermeasures against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“We won’t let ourselves be ripped off again and again. Instead, we act then too,” she said.
The Trudeau remarks clearly rankled Mr. Trump, who accused Mr. Trudeau of being two-faced. He tweeted that the prime minister acted “mild and meek” toward him at the G-7 but engaged in “very dishonest & weak” behavior after his departure.
“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!” the president tweeted from the presidential aircraft.
He continued his criticisms of Canada early Monday in Singapore, where he was preparing for the Kim summit.
“Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!) … Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!” he tweeted.
“Why should I, as President of the United States, allow countries to continue to make Massive Trade Surpluses, as they have for decades, while our Farmers, Workers & Taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay? Not fair to the PEOPLE of America!” he concluded.
White House Chief Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said Mr. Trudeau “really kind of stabbed us in the back.”
“He did a great disservice to the whole G-7,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Other world leaders seemed to side with Mr. Trudeau.
“International cooperation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks,” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Sunday. “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.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada “does not believe that ad hominem attacks are a particularly appropriate or useful way to conduct our relations with other countries.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said Sunday that Mr. Trump was making a big mistake by pulling out of the largely symbolic statement of unity at the G-7.
“This wasn’t just with Trudeau,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This is with our best allies, seven best allies. I understand the president was upset. The president could have said that. But to walk away from our allies in this way, I think, is a mistake.”
The president has been a disruptive force for the international trading order. He has insisted that other countries move to reduce barriers, which he said have left the U.S. with a trade deficit of more than $800 billion.
Mr. Kudlow, however, insisted it was Mr. Trudeau who “busted up” the G-7 with his remarks — even if they were designed for domestic consumption in Canada and though Mr. Trump is known for making strident comments in other settings.
“I personally negotiated with Prime Minister Trudeau, who, by the way, I basically liked working with, but not until this sophomoric play,” he told CNN.
He said optics were a key part of the problem because Mr. Trudeau’s comments landed as Mr. Trump flew to Singapore for his high-stakes meeting with Mr. Kim.
“It is a historic negotiation, and there is no way this president is not going to stand strong — number one,” Mr. Kudlow told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He’s not going to let other people suddenly take pot shots at him hours before that summit.”
Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said the president was damaging himself.
“If Trump can’t negotiate a deal on milk with one of our closest allies, how is he going to get a deal on nuclear disarmament with one of our greatest foes?” he tweeted.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.
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