Emotions were on display when U.S. President Donald Trump met other G-7 leaders at their annual summit in Canada on Friday, but the discussions were civilized and diplomatic, according to sources.
Trump held firm on asserting the United States is disadvantaged when it comes to trade with its European allies.
“The other leaders presented their numbers and Trump presented his,” a G-7 official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Reuters news agency. “As expected he did not budge. This is probably not because he does not understand, but because of domestic reasons.”
At a bilateral meeting later with the summit's host, Justin Trudeau, the U.S. president joked that the Canadian prime minister had agreed to “cut all tariffs.”
Despite the two leaders exchanging criticism of each other’s trade policies the previous day, Trump described the cross-border relationship as very good, stating “we’re actually working on cutting tariffs and making it all very fair for both countries. And we’ve made a lot of progress today. We’ll see how it all works out.”
In a subsequent sit-down meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump said “the United States has had a very big trade deficit for many years with the European Union and we are working it out. And Emmanuel’s been very helpful in that regard.”
Macron responded that he had a “very direct and open discussion” with Trump and "there is a critical path that is a way to progress all together.”
Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, confirms she met on Friday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss the tariffs and the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She said Canada, however, will not change its mind about the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs which she termed “illegal.”
Trump imposed the tariffs on the grounds that weak domestic industries could affect U.S. national security.
America’s closest allies, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, are introducing retaliatory tariffs.
“I think the only way this moves towards a deal is if the concern grows among the G-7 countries about the economic impact of this, that Trump begins to feel some pressure from farmers and small manufacturers and others that are harmed, that other countries are feeling the pressure from the decline in their steel and aluminum exports to the United States and it causes some reconsideration of the current positions,” says Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
On the eve of the summit, Trump had lashed out on Twitter at Macron and Trudeau, who had criticized Trump’s trade stance at a joint news conference on Thursday in Ottawa.The White House then announced Trump would skip some of the G-7 sessions and depart for Singapore on Saturday morning, several hours earlier than planned.
Trudeau, alongside Trump, was asked if he was disappointed the U.S. president was leaving early. He did not reply but Trump grinned broadly and said “he’s happy” before appearing to stick out his tongue.
Some attending the summit are openly expressing strong concern about Trump’s positions.
“What worries me most is that the rules-based international order is being challenged,” Donald Tusk, the chairman of European Union leaders, said at a news conference just prior to the start of the G-7 talks. “Quite surprisingly not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor — the United States. Naturally we cannot force the U.S. to change its mind.”
Should Trump disassociate with the group, reducing it to a G-6, it would leave the collective virtually inconsequential, according to some analysts.
“The United States accounts for more than half of the GDP of the total G-7. So, without the United States the G-7 really isn’t anything,” according to Sebastian Mallaby, a CFR senior fellow for international economics.
Before departing the White House for Canada, the president told reporters that Russia should be invited back to the summits of leading advanced countries.
Trump, speaking on the South Lawn on Friday morning before boarding the Marine One helicopter, said that while “I have been Russia’s worst nightmare…Russia should be in this meeting.”
One other G-7 leader, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, said in a tweet he supports Trump’s suggestion.
But other G-7 leaders said it was not going to happen at this time.
European Union leaders are in agreement “that a return of Russia to the G-7 format summits can’t happen until substantial progress has been made in connection with the problems with Ukraine,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.
A spokesman at the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, brushed it all off.
“Russia is focused on other formats apart from the G-7,” Peskov said, according to the Sputnik news agency.
Russia was added to the political forum in 1997, which became known as G-8 the following year. But Russia was suspended from the summit of the top industrialized nations in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea, a part of Ukraine. Russia announced its permanent withdrawal last year.