G7 unity torpedoed by angry Trump tweets dismissing Trudeau as 'dishonest & weak'

It took just two tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump to shatter what seemed like a fragile consensus reached by G7 leaders after tense talks at their summit in Quebec this weekend and raise the spectre of an all-out trade war with Canada.

U.S. president threatens again to impose auto tariffs moments after PM's closing news conference

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting at the G7 leaders summit in La Malbaie, Que., on Friday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

It took just two tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump to shatter what seemed like a fragile consensus reached by G7 leaders after tense talks at their Quebec summit this weekend and raise the spectre of an all-out trade war with Canada.

The tweets, sent as Trump was en route to Singapore for his summit with North Korea, were personal and aimed squarely at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Just moments after the official joint communiqué was released outlining 28 areas of agreement by all seven nations — with a few exceptions — Trump tweeted he was instructing his officials to withdraw support for the communiqué.

And he had suggested more dire consequences were to come.

"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.

In a second tweet, Trump said his ire was prompted by Trudeau's comments at his closing news conference.

"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," Trump tweeted.

It is unclear if Trump's tweet will have any meaningful impact — the U.S. had already endorsed the communiqué hours earlier before Trump left for Asia — beyond further fraying relations between the two countries and threatening the legacy of Trudeau's time as host of the summit. A report from the pool travelling with Trump said there had been no indication of a withdrawal from the G7 communiqué.

Around four hours ago an administration official informed your pooler by mail "President Trump has joined the Charlevoix G7 Summit Communique."

A spokesperson for Trudeau responded to Trump's tweets by saying the government remained focused on "everything we accomplished here at the summit."

"The prime minister said nothing he hasn't said before — both in public, and in private conversations with the President," Cameron Ahmad tweeted.

A reporter shouted questions at Trudeau on Saturday evening when he was spotted strolling around the Fairmont Le Manoir property, the site of the summit, with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri.

He was asked for his reaction to Trump's tweets, and his thoughts on what Trump's move could mean for the future of the G7.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Argentina's President Mauricio Macri walk at the G7 leaders summit in La Malbaie, Que. Trudeau didn't answer reporter questions about Trump's tweets. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Trudeau didn't answer the questions.

"Good to see you guys," Trudeau said. "It's a beautiful evening, a great weekend."

'We won't be pushed around'

It appeared that last-minute lobbying efforts by the Canadian delegation had secured agreement by all the leaders for a joint communiqué from the G7 summit, a victory Trudeau announced at his late afternoon news conference.

But Trudeau was pressed by reporters to respond to Trump's tough talk on trade before he departed the summit early to fly to Singapore — and it's those remarks that seem to be the source of Trump's ire.

Despite his insistence that the United States would continue to extract concessions from allies on trade, Trump had praised his relationship with Canada, France and Germany in his earlier news conference.

"I would say that the level of relationship is a 10.  We have a great relationship. Angela and Emmanuel and Justin.  I would say the relationship is a 10," Trump said.

And he suggested Canada and the U.S. were closing in on a NAFTA deal that included a sunset clause — "We're pretty close on the sunset provision. OK?"

Trudeau shut down such optimism, insisting it is a non-starter.

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the conclusion of the G7 leaders summit in Charlevoix, Que. 42:20

"There will not be a sunset clause. Canada has been unequivocal. We cannot, we will not sign a trade deal that expires automatically every five years. That is not a trade deal. So, that's not on the table," he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Canada's chief political negotiator on this file, could be seen nodding vigorously in agreement in the audience of the Trudeau news conference.

Despite Trump's warning that Canada, Mexico and the European Union should think twice before retaliating against the U.S. for levy tariffs on aluminum and steel, Trudeau said his government was still pushing ahead with its plan to impose more than $16.5 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. goods as of July 1.

"[Trump] expressed to me he thought that would be a mistake and I certainly agree that it's not something that we want to do.

"We do not want to harm American workers … but the administration's choice to impose illegal and unacceptable tariffs, illegitimate and unacceptable tariffs to Canadian steel workers and auto workers and on the Canadian economy, must be met with an equivalent response."

Trump said Saturday that the U.S. would win any trade war, vowing to ramp up combative trade actions — even against some of his country's closest allies — or curtail trade altogether if partners cannot agree to more favourable terms for America.

He said the current system of international trade has badly damaged U.S. interests while giving an advantage to others.

"We're like the piggy bank that everybody's robbing, and that ends," he said, taking aim at Canada's supply managed dairy sector in particular.

"We will not be pushed around," Trudeau countered in his news conference.

Agreement on girls' education

The flare-up threatened to overshadow the successes Trudeau claimed coming out of his first G7 summit as host:

  • An agreement by Canada, the EU, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the World Bank to invest more than $3.8 billion in education for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations as proof the often fractious summit produced some meaningful results. The U.S. supported the initiative in principle, Trudeau said, but had not yet made a financial commitment.
  • Agreement by five of the seven nations to an oceans protection plan and a plan to eradicate plastic pollution, with the U.S. and Japan remaining offside. Trudeau said Canada also plans to invest $162 million to protect coastal communities.
  • A statement on combating climate change, with the U.S. the lone holdout.
  • A call for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and for Russia "to cease its destabilizing behaviour to undermine democratic systems" and its support of Syria.
  • A pledge to work together to "enforce existing international rules and develop new rules where needed to foster a truly level playing field" on trade.

Need for 'rules-based trade'

Talk at the two-day summit had been dominated by discussion of Trump's move to impose punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the EU — a move French President Emmanual Macron has called "illegal and a mistake" under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Speaking before the communiqué was officially released Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the importance of the endorsement of rules on trade.

G7 and European Union leaders pose for a photograph during the G7 leaders summit in La Malbaie, Que., on Friday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"For us it was important that we have a commitment to a rule-based trade order, that we continue to fight against protectionism and that we want to reform the World Trade Organization," Merkel told reporters Saturday afternoon.

Merkel said there was a broad agreement among G7 leaders that tariffs and other trade barriers should be reduced.

"These are jointly shared principles, although the pitfalls lie in the detail," she said.

But after Trump's Twitter bombshell, one of Trudeau's comments at his news conference seemed to take on new meaning.

"If the expectation was that a weekend in beautiful Charlevoix was going to transform the president's outlook on trade and the world, then we didn't quite perhaps meet that bar," Trudeau said.

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