GOP, business groups slam Trump attacks on Canada


Republicans and business groups are slamming President Trump and his advisers over scathing remarks about Canada following the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in Quebec over the weekend.

The backlash comes after Trump and his White House doled out several harshly worded attacks aimed at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised after the president’s departure from the G-7 to retaliate against steep steel and aluminum tariffs.

After Trump called the prime minister “very dishonest & weak” on Twitter, two White House advisers doubled down on the criticism, with Trump’s top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, saying there was “a special place in hell” for Trudeau.

The White House’s comments have ramped up a burgeoning trade war that is causing anxiety on both sides of the border and creating angst among congressional Republicans ahead of November’s midterm elections.

On Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whose panel leads on trade, said Navarro “should’ve kept his big mouth shut,” according to news reports.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) also responded directly to Navarro’s remarks, calling on his fellow Republicans to push back against Trump’s policies. “This is not who we are. This cannot be our party,” he tweeted.

Other Republicans offered similar responses.

“To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tweeted Saturday.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Monday hyped the close relationship between her state and Canada and said that despite some differences with the United States’s neighbor to the north, “Canada remains our close ally, good friend, & one of America’s biggest trading partners.”

Business leaders also pushed back against the White House’s comments over the weekend.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, who was spotted heading into the Capitol Hill office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday, said that while his organization agrees with taking a tough stance on trade, the U.S. must protect longtime relationships and avoid hurting businesses here.

“Our strategy must take aim at the right problems, not trade deficits,” said Donohue, who didn’t directly address the Trump-Trudeau feud, in a release from the Chamber.

“It must also take aim at the right targets, not our closest allies,” he said. “Unfortunately, the growing list of tariffs proposed or imposed by our government, as well as the continued uncertainty over the future of [the North American Free Trade Agreement], is already taking a toll on businesses.”

Donohue said that the Trump administration’s “approach, however, runs the risk of erasing the recent economic gains it worked so hard to secure through tax and regulatory relief without even solving the underlying problems.”

Navarro’s comments also drew scorn from former American diplomats.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, an Obama-era diplomat, said Navarro’s words were “unconscionable.”

“Anybody who represents the United States of America from the White House using that kind of language with any world leader of any type, I think is uncalled for,” Heyman told CNN, calling on Navarro to apologize.

Nicholas Burns, a former long-serving diplomat who now teaches at Harvard University, excoriated Navarro’s performance.

“This is astonishingly rude and uncivil,” he tweeted.

“A savage personal attack on the leader of our closest ally. Navarro would have been fired in any other administration for this. He should resign in disgrace.”

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, on Monday tried to smooth out the administration’s reactions. He said he would not have used Navarro’s words and argued that the president felt like the meeting had been productive and Trudeau’s comments calling tariffs “insulting” had left a mark.

“I think that there was offense taken that once airborne, on your way to an incredibly important international summit, that the prime minister of Canada chose to take the podium to condemn the actions of the United States,” Short told CNN.

He added there is concern about the “tariffs and barriers” that Canada has placed on U.S. goods and services and the “president stood up for that.”

Trump has inflamed tensions among key allies in the G-7 with his decision to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum i mports.

The move also has caused concern among lawmakers. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have legislation that would challenge Trump’s decision to impose the tariffs on close allies like the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

But McConnell said last week he won’t bring the legislation to the floor and instead encouraged the measure’s authors to attach it to the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill expected to reach the Senate floor this month.

The EU and Canada are planning in  July to impose retaliatory tariffs on a wide range of U.S. goods.

Despite the flare-up over the weekend, much of the response remained muted with Trump in Singapore and the focus on his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), played down the latest trade tensions with Canada. “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said. “They’re big boys and girls.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough used the quiet to blast Republican leaders on Monday, saying “they are scared to death” to publicly criticize Trump when they all privately trash him.

“What also is so maddening is that [Republican leaders] are scared to death to say anything negative about Donald Trump publicly, but privately they all trash him,” Scarborough added.

Trump issued the tariffs under Section 232 of the trade law, saying that they are necessary for national security purposes, a stance Trudeau has taken issue with given the two countries’ long-standing alliance.

Jordain Carney contributed to this report.

Tags Bob Corker Donald Trump Jeff Flake John Cornyn John McCain Mitch McConnell Orrin Hatch Pat Toomey Susan Collins
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