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Trump takes hard line with US allies at G-7 summit

   

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE exited the Group of Seven (G-7) summit on Saturday with a stark warning to some of Washington's closest allies: reduce trade barriers or face consequences.

As he prepared to depart early from the G-7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada, to head to Singapore ahead of his planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump delivered an ultimatum to foreign leaders, demanding that their countries reduce trade barriers for the U.S. or risk losing market access to the world's largest economy. 

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"They have no choice. I'll be honest with you, they have no choice," Trump told reporters at a news conference, adding that companies and jobs had left the U.S. to escape trade barriers abroad. "We're going to fix that situation. And if it's not fixed, then we're not going to deal with these countries."

“We’re the piggy bank that everybody is robbing,” Trump added at one point. “And that ends.”

He also warned the countries against trying to hit back against the steel and aluminum tariffs his administration recently announced, adding that he would continue to pursue such trade measures until other countries relented and agreed to "fair" trade deals with the U.S.

"The European Union [EU] is brutal to the United States. And they understand that. They know it," he told reporters at a news conference ahead of his departure from Canada. "When I'm telling them, they're smiling at me, like, the gig is up."

"They can't believe they got away with it. Canada can't believe it got away with it," he continued. "Mexico — we have a $100 billion trade deficit with Mexico, and that doesn't include all the drugs that are pouring in."

In leaving the G-7 summit early, Trump avoided sessions on climate change and the world's oceans, underscoring the stark divide in his priorities and those of traditional U.S. allies. 

Going into the summit on Friday, Trump had already cast himself as the odd man out among G-7 leaders.

He sparred on Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his administration's decision to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, Mexico and Canada.

The White House announced Thursday night that Trump would leave Charlevoix on Saturday morning and travel directly to Singapore ahead of his planned meeting with Kim on Tuesday — an early departure widely seen as a snub to G-7 allies.

And as the summit began, Trump called on the group to readmit Russia to the G-7 — a call that was swiftly shot down by most of the other members' leaders. Russia was kicked out of the group in 2014 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Despite that pushback, Trump continued to insist in his remarks on Saturday that Russia should be allowed back into the group of nations. Doing so, he said, would be a "positive thing."

"I would say the G-8 is a more meaningful group than the G-7," he said, referring to the group's name prior to Russia's suspension.

Trump also made a veiled reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea, alluding to the fact that "something happened a while ago" that prompted Moscow's suspension from the G-7. He later placed blame on his predecessor, former President Obama, for allowing Russia to take control of the territory.

At several points in his news conference, Trump appeared to take a friendlier tone toward North Korea than he did toward many of Washington's G-7 allies. He spoke about the North's potential to be a "great" country, and said he looked forward to meeting with Kim on Tuesday.

"I really feel confident," he said. "I really feel that Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people and he has that opportunity and he’ll never have that opportunity again."

With Trump's early departure on Saturday, speculation swirled that the U.S. would be excluded from the traditional joint communique issued by the G-7 nations at the close of the summit.

Trudeau ended that speculation on Saturday afternoon, hours after Trump departed Canada, saying in closing remarks at the summit that all seven countries had signed on to the statement.

Asked at his news conference on Saturday about the state of U.S. relations with other G-7 member states, Trump insisted that they had never been better.

"The level of relationship is a 10. Angela [Merkel], Emmanuel [Macron], Justin [Trudeau]. I would say the relationship is a 10,” he said, after haranguing the CNN reporter who asked the question as "fake news."

He added: "The relationship that I've had is great, so you can tell that to your fake friends at CNN."

In a series of tweets issued hours after he left the summit on Saturday, Trump touted what he called "great meetings and relationships" with the six other G-7 leaders. But he insisted that his foreign counterparts understood his gripes about trade imbalances. 

"Just left the @G7 Summit in beautiful Canada. Great meetings and relationships with the six Country Leaders especially since they know I cannot allow them to apply large Tariffs and strong barriers to U.S.A. Trade," he tweeted. "They fully understand where I am coming from. After many decades, fair and reciprocal Trade will happen!"

But, hours later, Trump seemed to pivot on his feelings toward the summit's outcome.

“Based on Justin’s [Trudeau] 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!” Trump tweeted.

The snub came just hours after Trudeau had confirmed that all G-7 members had signed the joint statement at the summit's conclusion, as is customary.

During the summit, Trudeau had issued a stinging rebuke of U.S. tariffs, asserting that Canadians “will not be pushed around” by Washington. 

In a second tweet issued a minute after Trump announced the United States's withdrawal from the communique, the president defended the tariffs and accused Trudeau of acting “meek and mild” during the G-7 meetings. 

“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!” Trump wrote

--Updated at 7:25 p.m.