President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE will walk into a lion’s den of angry allied leaders at this week’s Group of Seven summit, where he is expected to face a firestorm of criticism over his decision to hit them with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Trump’s decision to levy tariffs has rankled allies and created divisions in the longstanding relationships. It’s creating a stark contrast from the last decade of G-7 summits, which generally have served as opportunities for the world’s seven largest economies to close ranks on major political and economic issues.
Washington’s moves have brought the closely linked nations to the brink of an all-out trade war, setting the stage for a showdown in Quebec and one of the most difficult G-7 meetings for a U.S. president.
Bill Reinsch, a trade expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Trump is likely to get an earful from the U.S. allies.
“I think they’re going to push him on a big-picture issue and that is they’re going to say that he is threatening the multilateral trading system, he’s undermining the [World Trade Organization], he’s abusing the concept of national security and weakening the discipline of rules and norms that have developed since Bretton Woods in 1944 and have held the system together ever since,” Reinsch said.
The other six members of the G-7 — Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Japan — are all getting hit by the tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum.
The countries have reason to worry it is only the beginning: Trump is threatening to apply hefty duties on foreign autos for national security purposes.
Trump also has irritated allies by leaving the Iran nuclear accord that several of the countries helped negotiate.
Reinsch said he expects the summit to be one of the most tense in recent history and said the other six countries are “loaded to bear.”
“A smart thing for Trump to do would be to say, ‘Look, we all face a common problem and that’s China, so instead of talking about me, why don’t we talk about how to deal with them,’ ” he said
British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron each talked to Trump on Monday about the tariffs and expect those discussions to continue at the G-7 summit.
May’s office said she stressed that “the U.S., U.K. and [European Union] are close national security allies and we recognize the importance of the values of open and fair trade across the world.”
On Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossBannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ House panel, Commerce Department reach agreement on census documents China sanctions Wilbur Ross, others after US warns of doing business in Hong Kong MORE announced Trump’s decision to end the temporary exemptions for the EU, Canada and Mexico.
All have announced plans to retaliate against billions of dollars in American products.
The White House is defending the use of tariffs, which it says are being imposed over national security concerns.
During the call with May, the White House said Trump “underscored the need to rebalance trade with Europe.”
“The United States has had discussions with Canada, Mexico and the EU to find an alternative,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday.
“Without an alternative solution, tariffs are the only measures appropriate to safeguard the country,” she said.
Amid the ire emanating from U.S. allies, Trump has ramped up his criticism of Canada and the European Union, saying that Americans have been taken advantage of on trade.
“Farmers have not been doing well for 15 years. Mexico, Canada, China and others have treated them unfairly. By the time I finish trade talks, that will change,” Trump said Monday on Twitter.
Ahead of the summit, the other G-7 members expressed “unanimous concern and disappointment” over the tariffs, in a statement released by Canada over the weekend.
“Concerns were expressed that the tariffs imposed by the United States on its friends and allies, on the grounds of national security, undermine open trade and confidence in the global economy,” the statement said.
Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau highlighted the concern over the American unilateralism.
“Unfortunately the actions of the United States this week risk undermining the very values that traditionally have bound us together,” he said over the weekend.
The sharp political differences and infighting among the G-7 countries are an unusual departure for a group that was founded to build consensus around major issues.
While the member nations have been split on approaches in the past, such as vocal opposition to the Iraq War in the early 2000s, the summits were often used as a forum for conciliation.
In 2003, for example, the then-Group of Eight, which at that point included Russia, issued a broadly united message of rebuilding in Iraq just months after the American-led invasion, which France sharply opposed.
Trump will arrive in Canada with uneven support from his own party in Congress, where two separate efforts are under way to claw back presidential authority on tariffs.
“The Constitution gives [power over trade] to the Congress, so what should be controversial about Congress exercising its constitutional authority?” said Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), a harsh critic of the tariffs.
Others are willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, hoping that he will drop the tariffs after extracting concessions from America’s trade partners.
“I’ve said before that imposing tariffs on this and tariffs on that is not the real answer. I think the real answer — and I think for most people who follow trade — is you negotiate the trade,” said Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Trump seeking to oust Republican Alabama governor over canceled rally: report MORE (R-Ala.).
“Where I think we’ve been getting our lumps over the last 30 years is in the negotiations themselves,” Shelby said.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.), who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee responsible for foreign affairs, said the tactic could help the U.S. correct some unfair trade practices by its allies, such as the differing tariff levels that the EU and U.S. impose on imported cars.
“I think steel tariffs are too broad, the aluminum tariffs are too broad, they’re going to hurt us as well as our allies, but if the whole exercise here is creating better reciprocity, then I think we’re in good shape,” he told The Hill.