Before US President Donald Trump sits down with a notorious dictator, he is to face what might well turn out to be a tougher crowd — some of the US’ oldest allies.
With his new tariffs increasing US isolation, Trump heads to Canada today for a G7 meeting.
The White House is expecting a chilly reception from Canada and western European countries, already frustrated over Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday previewed the dynamics, telling the German Bundestag that “it is apparent that we have a serious problem with multilateral agreements here, and so there will be contentious discussions.”
Anticipating a tense two days in Quebec, Trump has complained about having to attend the summit, particularly as it comes just before his high-stakes meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, two people with knowledge of his thinking said.
However, the White House has signaled no change in plans.
“The president wants to go on the trip,” US National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said of the summit in Canada. “The president is at ease with all of these tough issues.”
“There may be disagreements,” Kudlow added. “I regard this as much like a family quarrel.”
Trump is also set to hold a series of one-on-one meetings, including with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump is unlikely to back away from the nationalistic policies that have frustrated and unnerved allies, but which he sees as key promises to his most loyal voters.
Allies should understand that Trump “will do what is necessary to protect the US, its businesses and its workforce,” Kudlow said, adding that Trump “has always said, and I agree, tariffs are a tool in that effort.”
Trump in March announced tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, but he temporarily granted a waiver to US allies like Canada, Mexico and the EU, and also to China, as his administration said trade talks were continuing.
Trump ended that temporary relief this month, seeking to pressure the other countries to cut new trade agreements with the US.
Japan was never granted a waiver, despite Japanese Prime Mininster Shinzo Abe’s pleas.
Asked if the Trump administration would respect decisions from the WTO on tariffs, Kudlow said that “international multilateral organizations are not going to determine American policy. I think the president’s made that very clear.”
The meeting comes after a gathering of G7 finance ministers last week concluded with a message of “concern and disappointment” to Trump from the other countries.
Describing the tense three days, French Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire said it was “far more a G6 plus one than a G7.”