Trump’s intentions relative to the agenda of the G7 meeting in Quebec were openly not much different from the tone that he has been playing on trade and multilateralism for the past few months. Prior to the meeting, Trump continued with his hardball rhetoric, particularly regarding Canada, in terms of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with Trump threatening to withdraw from the agreement if he doesn’t reach a better deal at the G7 summit.
Trump has also set himself at odds with every other member of the G7 through his tariffs regime, such as those tariffs on aluminum and steel that went into effect for Canada, Mexico, and the EU at the beginning of June, the threat of sanctions for European G7 members who choose to continue doing business with Iran, and the threat of coming under sanctions aimed at Russia for buying Russian oil and gas, also aimed at some of the G7’s European members.
So, for Trump, the board was already set, and his strategy was going to continue after this fashion even after the summit was over. For America, the summit had one goal: better deals for America, or no deals at all. For everyone else, this means that trade tensions are only set to continue this course of escalation. Oh, and that America is not going to participate in any measures to address climate change.
It seems to be a common perception among conservatives that the nuclear fallout from Trump’s economic and diplomatic policies are merely a ‘negotiating tactic’ with the aim of really forcing the other party to capitulate to Trump’s demands, as in some kind of 4-D chess strategy, where he will ensure that he will ‘win’. Of course, for Trump, to ‘win’ means that everyone else must ‘lose’.
But this is not diplomacy, it’s like trying to negotiate with the mafia, where Trump offers a deal that other countries ‘can’t refuse’. But what Trump doesn’t realize is that America’s position in all of this is a monetary one, wherein America’s purchase of other nation’s goods is part of how America ensures its ability to stay on top of the world order, by using the dollar and American financial systems to keep everyone else in line. But by isolating America from everyone else, he reduces the amount of the dollars that he is exporting, thereby reducing America’s control over the world market. He’s not checkmating everyone else, he’s backing himself into a corner.
Trump walked into the meeting late as the discussion centered around gender equality, an issue that seems to become ever more discombobulated, which has become a major talking point in popular cultural circles and the major media the world over. As the topic turned to trade, arguably the most important topic to be covered by the summit, Trump talked about free and mutually beneficial trade, that is, of course, as long as America benefits the most.
That’s why Trump defended his tariffs regime, and threatened those nations to whom they were directed relative to any retaliations, slamming them as ‘a big mistake’, hence, in Trump’s mind, America gets to issue tariffs out to the rest of the world to even out a ‘trade deficit’ and that everyone else must keep calm and take it, or else Trump will escalate the matter, perceiving that the deficit can’t be shored up unless America can achieve a better equilibrium through tariffs and wherein the tariffed nations forgo any response. For Trump, it’s a way of leveling the playing field, as reported by the Guardian:
In a tense session on trade on Friday, European and Canadian leaders had sought to defuse the gathering conflict, rolling out statistics on how many US jobs depended on their countries’ trade and investment and arguing that the US had more barriers to trade than its partners.
The discussion had no effect on Trump, who stuck to the claims he made throughout his election campaign: that the US was being ripped off.
“The European Union is brutal to the United States,” he railed. “And they understand that. They know it. When I’m telling them, they’re smiling at me. You know, it’s like the gig is up.”
Canada too, the president said, “can’t believe it got away” with its trade deal with the US.
“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing. And that ends,” Trump said.
The president even threatened to stop doing business with US partners if they did not change their policies.
“And it’s going to stop,” Trump said. “Or we’ll stop trading with them. And that’s a very profitable answer, if we have to do it.”
But one thing that we have noticed about Trump’s rhetoric and actions as of late, that he tends to make good on his threats. While often times likes to leave the door open to another possible outcome, there nearly always is a pretext to following through on his threats. We saw this with the threat to withdraw from the Iran deal, which he made good on, with his threats to launch a military offensive in Syria, which he went forward to conduct, however controlled, and his threats relative to the tariffs that he went forward to impose, and with his initial threat to withdraw from the North Korea peace talks, which are still under threat, as he continues to warn that he will walk away from that summit, too, if he doesn’t think he’s gonna ‘win’.
Based on this track record, while he tends to follow through on these threats, they’re not always of an all encompassing outcome, they are carried out in order to save his tough guy face, but do not always sink in the teeth necessary to do much damage in every case. But with the Iran deal, he’s still trying to nuke that by threatening sanctions on the other signatories for preserving the conditions necessary to preserve the agreement. Based on his present actions and rhetoric, he’s not measuring his tariffs regime all that much, as he continues to dole out ever more of them, and follow through on implementing them.
But the manner in which Trump treated the summit and its agenda is what is most revealing. As we gather from repeated statements from Trump’s own mouth, he isn’t much into multilateralism, and prefers bilateral agreements. Before the summit, he was clear that he thinks it’s better that an agreement is not made, that is, a multilateral agreement with an indefinite lifespan.
This is apparently because he wants to preserve the ability to make, break, and revise agreements whenever it suits him, hence, the desire to leave such doors open for America, rather than locking it into some agreement with multiple other nations, meaning international obligations without an expiration date, or least one that can readily be met.
In this way, Trump is running America into the iceberg of isolationism, believing that the USS America is truly unsinkable. His trade policies and approach to multilateral agreements have been wrecking relations with his allies at ramming speed.
That’s why we see the Canadian Prime Minister closing out the meeting with a press conference announcing that he was regretfully moving forward with his retaliatory trade tariffs against the US, adding that Trump’s pretext of issuing his trade tariffs against Canada and other trade partners on the basis of ‘national security’ were ‘insulting’.
Due to Trudeau’s remarks, Trump instructed his representatives who remained behind at the summit for the purpose of ascribing Trump’s endorsement of the comminuque that would be issued by the summit not to do so, meaning that America was not going to sign onto the agreement because Trudeau said something mean and because of some tariffs that Canada charges the US.
Apparently, coming to terms with the important items that the summit was to cover is not quite as important as everyone being nice to Trump by not saying any mean words, or that one trade scenario that has existed for some time is considerably more important than the internationally significant matters that were on the table for resolution by the summit’s statement. Deutsche Welle reports:
Leaders of the G7 appeared to have agreed on a final communique at the end of a contentious two-day summit in Canada on Saturday, before US President Donald Trump lashed out at Canada and created further uncertainty over trade.
The summit between the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Britain and Italy was one of the most fractious ever, and the agreement on a final communique could not paper over differences on trade, the environment and Iran nuclear deal.
Despite Trump’s recent decision to slap aluminum and steel tariffs on America’s allies, the statement at the conclusion of the summit called for the “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade,” fighting protectionism and “the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system.”
Yet a deep rift was highlighted as host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended the summit by saying he would move forward with retaliatory tariffs against the United States starting on July 1. He called US tariffs on its ally under the pretext of national security “kind of insulting” and said Canada would not be “pushed around.”
“What we did this weekend was come together, roll up our sleeves and figure out a consensus language that we could all agree to,” Trudeau said at a press conference, recognizing that there were major differences with Trump. “If the expectation was that a weekend in beautiful Charlevoix surrounded by lovely people was going to transform the president’s outlook on trade and the world, then we didn’t quite perhaps meet that bar.”
Only hours later Trump took to Twitter to assault the Canadian prime minister’s “false statements” and instructed US representatives to renege on the US endorsement of the joint communique. He also said he would be looking to impose tariffs on car imports into the United States.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
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, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
By these tweets, Trump expressed his pretext for refusing to endorse the internationally agreed upon statement, by his allies and trade partners, and which Trump had initially approved before his departure. He also tells us that Trudeau’s mean comments were uttered behind his back, after he departed the summit in order to make his way to Singapore, where he is set to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, on the long awaited peace talks that he is to help facilitate.
But apparently, Trudeau’s comments were nothing new, nor were the sentiments that they conveyed something that Trump was ignorant of, thus, the concept that these ‘dishonest’ and ‘false’ statements were of such a nature could be perceived as absurd, and that’s apparently the reason why Trudeau’s office responded “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.” Trudeau’s comments, we can therefore gather, were the reason why he refused to endorse the communique, as France24 tells us”
…When Trump left Quebec it was thought that a compromise had been reached, despite the tension and determination of European leaders President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to push back on Trump’s assault on the world trade system.
The joint statement was published online moments before Trump tweeted. Copies that begin “We, the Leaders of the G7…” were distributed in the press room stamped “Approved.”
On board Air Force One an AFP reporter was first told that Trump had indeed approved the agreement, only to be told later of the tweets. A senior administration official told the reporter that Trump had been angered by Trudeau’s comments.
The outburst suggested that any deal had collapsed and his more or less explicit threat to impose sanctions on imports of cars will outrage his ostensible allies — in particular Germany and Canada who produce many for the large US market.
In retrospect, the consensus on ground had appeared shaky from the outset, and even as Trump flew out it was clear that the summit had failed to heal the rift on trade.
Trump claimed America had been obliged to levy the metals tariffs as it has been exploited as the world’s “piggy bank” under existing arrangements, but his counterparts were equally determined to protect “rules-based” international trade.
As Trump’s policies have been putting America’s relations with the rest of the Western world into a bit of a fray, the situation was not alleviated by Trump’s participation in the summit, given that he later withdrew his approval of the international statement, but is only perpetuated by it. The outcome, however, was not unanticipated, as French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned via Twitter
The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be. Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force https://t.co/UA86fcjozs
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 7, 2018
Macron points out the obvious, but also gives a warning, that if America insists on isolating itself, then everyone else will move forward without it. In that sense, rather than making America ‘great’ or ‘first’ Trump is putting America last on the international pecking order. By refusing to participate in the communique issued by the other members of the G7, Trump is reducing the level of influence that America wields, a generalized phenomenon which is by this action further deteriorating it among America’s own allies and trade partners. America won’t cooperate on trade, non proliferation agreements, climate accords, or any other sort of agreement between America and the rest of the West, and its relations with the rest of the world aren’t getting any better either. Trump is doing a tremendous job of isolating America, and if that’s his goal, you do it, Trump! Maybe then the rest of the world will pay attention to your activities in the Middle East, and elsewhere, and their real world consequences.