Trump tramples G7


THE G7 summits are normally notable for the yelling and screaming of angry anti-globalization demonstrators who besiege the meetings which have to be guarded by thousands of police and security forces.

However, at the G7 weekend meeting in Quebec, it seems that most of the yelling and screaming went on inside the meeting. President Donald Trump has never lacked confidence but after his surprise election, in his early encounters with world leaders there was a certain awkwardness as he sought to find his way in the unfamiliar world of geopolitics. But such tentativeness as there was has clearly gone. Trump went into the G7 fully-primed for a showdown on his import tariffs to protect US business and did not give an inch in the ill-tempered discussions.

Sophisticates, such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s veteran chancellor Angela Merkel, of course already knew they had a problem with Trump. But they were clearly hoping that the mercurial US president could be reined in, to some extent at least. After all, was not Macron Trump’s new “best friend”, having only two months ago made the first state visit to Trump, been praised extravagantly and survived the crippling handshake contest? These G meetings have always depended on the display of a veneer of consensus, even if whatever deal was inked, was in reality honored in the breach. Officials start working up a possible final agreement months before the leaders themselves sit down to talk. Summitry has always been about the feel-good factor engendered by the prevailing liberal consensus. Such confrontations as occur are more often than not swept under the carpet.

And it seemed that in Quebec a tissue-thin final communique had been cobbled together. But then Canada’s Justin Trudeau gave a post-summit press conference in which he vowed retaliation against new American import duties on Canadian steel and aluminum. The “Tweetident” of the United States immediately took to his smartphone as he flew toward his Singapore meeting Tuesday with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, messaging that Trudeau was “very dishonest and weak”. More invective followed about how Canada had for some time imposed 270 percent duties on US dairy products, how American picked up most of the tab for NATO and how “Fair Trade” should now be called “Fool Trade”.

It is quite clear that Trump shook up the cozy clubbable atmosphere that has characterized past G7s. One of the president’s many complaints was that Russian president Vladimir Putin had not been invited. There were also tough exchanges over Trump’s hardline policy over Iran which the Europeans are trying to challenge. But for all the bad temper fellow G7 members realized that though they may loathe the US president, it was possible that he could pull off an extraordinary coup at his next meeting, which is today with Kim in Singapore. The vacuous multinational diplomacy of the last decade got the international community nowhere with Pyongyang. The brash, boorish, vulgar Trump has now got to first base with the hermit kingdom, something no predecessor ever managed.

If Trump triumphs in Singapore and produces a deal that will stick, the rest of the G7 should applaud loudly. Moreover, the Europeans in particular should abandon their lily-livered kowtowing to Iran’s ayatollahs, change tack and back Trump’s uncompromising hard line on Iran’s nuclear weapons’ program.