The Memo

The Memo: Deep discord to greet Trump at G-7

President Trump faces political dangers as he heads to Canada for the Group of Seven economic summit starting Friday, with deep discord at the center of the meeting.
Many of the other leading industrialized nations represented at Friday and Saturday’s summit have slammed the tariffs that the U.S. has introduced recently, while Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord have also flummoxed global leaders.
{mosads}Leaders of nations that are usually vocal U.S. allies have become pointed in their criticism. And now they will have their chance to press their case with Trump directly, in a setting where no other participant shares the administration’s positions.
That dynamic could lead to tense exchanges, and the White House has been pushing back on speculation that the president has considered staying away from the event.
Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, insisted to reporters at the White House this week that “the president wants to go on the trip. The president is at ease with all of these tough issues.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Thursday that administration staff had “chuckled” at news reports that said the president had considered pulling out of the summit in Charlevoix, Quebec.
“He is going to the G-7. There is no plan to pull out of that,” Gidley told “Fox & Friends.”
Still, even some Republicans acknowledge that the meeting is likely to be an uncomfortable experience for Trump.
“I think that he is not looking forward to it because he knows he has fundamental differences with a number of the foreign leaders who are going to be there, and this gives them an opportunity to press him further,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. 
“It is harder to take steps that allies may not agree with and defend your position in person than it is over the phone.”
Those differences have been on public display more than ever before in recent weeks, with leaders from several G-7 nations issuing sharp rebukes of Trump’s trade moves.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has called the Trump administration’s move to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum “unjustified and deeply disappointing.”
Her Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, called one rationale for those tariffs — that they were necessary in order to safeguard U.S. national security — “insulting and unacceptable.”
And on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron picked up on speculation that Trump might not sign the traditional end-of-conference joint communiqué at the G-7, suggesting that the other nations were becoming a countervailing force to U.S. power. 
The other nations do not “mind signing a six-country agreement if need be,” adding that “they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”

Liberals and other critics of Trump fear that his approach is doing lasting damage to a foreign policy consensus that has endured for decades.

“He views everything that has been done sine [President Franklin] Roosevelt as a sucker’s game,” said Malcolm Nance, an author and former intelligence expert in the U.S. Navy. 

Nance asserted that Trump saw traditional American allies such as Canada and Western European nations as “weak and ineffective.”

“He doesn’t see a value in cooperation or alliance,” he added.

Kudlow, during his Wednesday media briefing, played down the strains between allies. At one point, he compared the dissonance to a “family quarrel.” Asked if the criticisms voiced by May and Trudeau gave Trump pause, Kudlow responded, “No. Look, there’s always tension about something.”

In this case, however, those tensions are exacerbated by cooling personal relationships. 

Trump is said by some close to him to have become impatient with May’s tendency to admonish him. 

Macron launched an unsuccessful charm offensive earlier this year to keep the U.S. in the Iran nuclear agreement, visiting Washington in late April. His tone toward Trump has hardened since then.

There is also the danger for Trump that any discord at the G-7 could prove to be an unwelcome distraction as he prepares for his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. 

Trump is clearly invested in the success of that event — the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of North Korea — and will be eager to avoid any embarrassment in the immediate run-up.

To be sure, however, there are plenty of people in Trump’s base of support at home who will be unbothered by European or Canadian disapproval at the G-7, seeing within it evidence that the president is delivering on his agenda of economic nationalism.

“Fighting with the Germans and the French is hardly upsetting to American voters,” said Barry Bennett, a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. “It’s not a big risk for him.”

Others took a different stance.

“The view among some Trump supporters is that if foreign leaders are mad at the U.S, perhaps it is because he is putting ‘America First.’ I don’t really subscribe to that view,” said Mackowiak. “I think it is better to maintain strong relationships with your allies.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

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